Last week, the Arkansas Department of Health started accepting applications for medical marijuana registry identification cards. These cards will be issued to qualifying patients and caregivers 30 days before the state allows dispensaries to open, which will likely occur early next year. Some patients who would qualify for medical marijuana have not applied, however, out of concern that their social security benefits would be cut if they began to use medical cannabis.

Darlene Williams, an Arkansan who is suffering from chronic pain, said that she found a doctor who would prescribe her medical cannabis to manage the symptoms of her pain. Williams currently takes five pharmaceutical medications daily, and medical cannabis could provide a safer alternative to some of these. But Williams is concerned that her social security disability benefits will be cancelled if she starts to use the federally prohibited medicine.

Many other Arkansas have also voiced their concerns over losing benefits due to medical marijuana use, but according to Social Security Administration Public Affairs spokesperson Sarah-Schultz Lackey, most social security recipients have nothing to worry about.  "Nothing in the Social Security Act or our regulations prevents a person with a medical marijuana license from receiving Social Security benefits or SSI payments,” Lackey said in a statement.

“We would stop an individual's Social Security benefits, however, if he or she is convicted of a criminal offense (perhaps for the sale or possession of marijuana) and is then placed in a correctional institution for over 30 continuous days. Also, we would stop an individual's SSI payments when the individual is confined in a public institution, such as a jail or prison, for a full calendar month.”

The Public Affairs office also said that they would notify an individual in advance of cutting off their benefits, and would allow the individual to formally protest the proposed suspension.