ARKANSAS, USA — Issue 4 will be toward the back of most Arkansas ballots in this election— but it has been on the front of advocates' minds for a decade.
If passed, it would legalize marijuana for recreational use for people 21 and over, allowing them to possess up to one ounce of the drug at a time
With any issue like this, there have been a lot of questions about safety and how it will be regulated if passed.
"Responsible Growth Arkansas focused on what was a responsible, well-regulated, meaningful way to approach an expanded industry," said Eddie Armstrong, a former state representative and the president of the group that pushed it onto the ballot.
Armstrong added that the issue is "not to just put dispensaries like liquor stores on every corner", and said that they would make certain that marijuana wouldn't be grown in homes.
Supporters also contend that it will lead to a cash windfall, with a 10% tax on sales, that's higher than the state's standard tax rate.
The proposal's authors already have plans for where all that money should go.
"We're going to be able to shift some revenues to law enforcement and for personnel UAMS Cancer Research accreditation," said Armstrong. "Our drug courts is where another portion of the funds will go, and then you've got this 200 plus million dollars that are going into general revenue."
The Medical Marijuana dispensaries already in place would be authorized to sell the legalized product and then 40 more licenses will be given out using a lottery system.
However, opponents of the bill are worried about how that will look and work.
"This creates a monopoly for a small number of marijuana dealers. In a way, they're writing themselves into the Arkansas constitution," said Jerry Cox, director of the Family Council of Arkansas, a longtime conservative advocacy group. "They are the ones that wrote the amendment. They are the ones that financed the campaign to get it on the ballot."
The bill traveled a rocky road to get onto the ballot and is the only citizen-initiated measure that made it this year after getting nearly 200,000 signatures— far more than the approximately 89,000 required.
It nearly met the same fate that all cannabis proposals met in past elections, except the 2016 vote for medical marijuana.
Courts, commissions, or the Attorney General would keep them off the ballot— but this time, the Arkansas Supreme Court cleared the way for this proposal to go to the voters.
So six years after passing medical marijuana, Arkansas could be the 20th state to legalize the drug for recreational use.
And like medical marijuana, If the bill passes, the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division would then have to develop rules to regulate the industry, which has left those in opposition wary.
"We have a medical marijuana board commission that oversees some of the medical marijuana," Cox said. "We have the ABC board that does some. We have a legislative committee that oversees, and some in the Health Department. Well, this new amendment unplugs all that and just says 'ABC board, you guys take care of that.'"
A vote yes on your ballot this November would:
- Approve legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 and over
- Initiate a 10% tax on marijuana sales
- Require new rules to be put in place to regulate sales
A vote no would oppose legalizing recreational marijuana here in Arkansas.