Industry association announces plans for social justice agenda during next legislative session November 2, 2022 By Griffin Coop The state’s leading cannabis business association announced Wednesday it will work to address social justice issues related to cannabis during the 2023 legislative session. The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association announced in a press release “a commitment to pursuing restorative justice legislation in the 2023 legislative session.” The group, which represents many of the state’s cultivators and dispensaries, said it will launch education and lobbying efforts on fair policy change and inequity in our legal system. Robbin Rahman, executive director of Harvest Cannabis dispensary in Conway and policy chair of the ACIA, said the changes are long overdue. “Individuals with cannabis-related convictions can be denied housing, employment opportunities, education, and even loans,” Rahman said in the press release. “Arkansans should not continue to face these kinds of obstacles based on actions that become legalized or decriminalized.” The press release says the first step toward reform is passage of Issue 4, the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, which will decriminalize possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. The second step, the press release says, will involve the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association taking action “to expunge the records of non-violent cannabis offenses through the legislative process.” The announcement comes as some marijuana advocates criticize the amendment on the ballot for not including social justice reforms such as expungement of prior marijuana convictions. A voter in Washington County, for instance, told the Arkansas Advocate he believes it is “unconscionable” that the amendment doesn’t include expungements, but he said he voted for the measure anyway. The press release provides a link to the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association website where people can sign up to get involved. The press release from ACIA: LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (November 2, 2022) – The Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association announces a commitment to pursuing restorative justice legislation in the 2023 legislative session. During the 2023 legislative session, the organization will add to its agenda an education and lobbying effort focused on fair policy change, particularly addressing the inequity in our legal system. According to the ACLU, cannabis-related arrests disproportionately occur in marginalized and minority populations. Black people are 3.6 times more likely than white people to be arrested for cannabis possession despite comparable usage rates. “Our state’s cannabis trade association will spearhead changes that are overdue in Arkansas,” says ACIA policy committee chair Robbin Rahman. “Individuals with cannabis-related convictions can be denied housing, employment opportunities, education, and even loans. Arkansans should not continue to face these kinds of obstacles based on actions that become legalized or decriminalized.” ACIA’s focus comes as voters head to the polls considering Issue 4, which would legalize adult use cannabis in Arkansas. Should voters pass recreational cannabis, ACIA’s policy priorities will shift to ensuring no individual is imprisoned for something that is now legal. “The Arkansas cannabis industry is committed to doing its part to help reverse the negative impacts of the war on drugs,” said Dan Roda, vice president of ACIA. “Arkansas cannabis businesses have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to support organizations like Last Prisoner Project and 40 Tons that work every day in important areas like expungement, sentencing reform, rehabilitation and re-entry. Your vote in favor of Issue 4 helps fund this important work and ensures that your fellow Arkansans are no longer incarcerated over a plant.” As a first step, Issue 4 would decriminalize adult possession of cannabis up to one ounce. As a second step, ACIA will take action to expunge the records of non-violent cannabis offenses through the legislative process. For more information and to join the effort, visit https://arcannabis.org/expungement-in-arkansas/.