The Marijuana Ballot – What you need to know about Arkansas’s Issue 4
Come Tuesday November 8th, Arkansas voters will have the opportunity to decide whether Arkansas will join the 19 other states that have already voted to legalize recreational marijuana. With proponents for both sides muddying the already smoky waters, what does Arkansas’ Ballot Issue 4 actually say? Here’s everything voters need to know before heading to the polls.
What Does the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment Do?
If a simple majority of Arkansans vote YES to Issue 4, the Arkansas Constitution will be amended to authorize the consumption, use, and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older starting November 18th. By March 7, 2023, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division must then license existing medical marijuana dispensaries to sell both medical and recreational marijuana with the option to open another dispensary licensed solely for recreational marijuana sales. An additional 40 Adult Use Dispensary licenses will then be issued to businesses selected via a lottery by July 5, 2023 with regulations that require child-proof packaging and restrict advertising that appeals to children.
What the Amendment Would Not Do:
Even if the Amendment is approved by Arkansas voters on November 8th, employers in the state will still be allowed to drug test their employees for cannabis use, and property owners will still have the power to dictate whether marijuana may be smoked on their property. Licensed cultivation facilities and dispensaries will maintain their exclusive right to the legal cultivation of cannabis, which means that it will still be illegal for private individuals, including medical marijuana patients, to grow cannabis plants on their private properties. Issue 4 also does not guarantee or mention measures that the state would take to mitigate criminal marijuana convictions such as sealing or expunging the records of people convicted of breaking current cannabis laws in Arkansas.
How a Win on Issue 4 Could Benefit Arkansas
According to a recent poll conducted by Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College, 58.5% of Arkansas voters plan to vote YES to Issue 4, while 29% of voters reported they will vote NO, and 12.5% are still undecided. Assuming the poll accurately predicts how Arkansans will vote in November, the state’s revenue will potentially increase exponentially. As soon as medical dispensaries receive their Adult Use Dispensary licenses in March, recreational marijuana will be taxed at a rate of 10% in addition to other state and local sales taxes. To put that revenue into perspective, Arkansas’s medical marijuana program has garnered over $400 million in sales with state tax revenue exceeding $81 million since the program was implemented in 2019.
As demonstrated in the chart below, the revenue from recreational marijuana sales would be used to fund an annual stipend for law enforcement officers along with providing for UA Medical Sciences and state-approved drug court programs. The remaining 70% of revenue acquired through recreational marijuana sales tax would be funneled back into Arkansas’s general revenue, which has historically been used to fund schools and health and human services for Arkansans. Passing the amendment would also remove the Arkansas residence requirement for medical marijuana patients and would eliminate all city, county and state sales taxes as well as the 4% special privilege tax that medical marijuana patients currently have to pay.
Critics of the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment
Along with Arkansans who are morally opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana, there are many critics of the issue who want Arkansas voters to delay their support of recreational marijuana usage until a more equitable amendment is proposed. Those critics argue that the proposed Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment is anticompetitive and inequitable because it gives priority licensing to the medical marijuana cultivation facilities and dispensaries that dominate the state’s marijuana industry today. They believe that Arkansas voters should vote NO on Issue 4 and wait for better recreational marijuana ballot initiatives because the proposed amendment disregards the discriminatory treatment of marginalized communities by refusing to guarantee equitable licensing opportunities and failing to outline mitigating measures that would repair harm done to those with convictions on simple possession charges.
Unfortunately the deadline for applications to register to vote in Arkansas has already passed. To check whether you are registered to vote in Arkansas and find your local polling place, please click here. Early voting will take place from Monday, October 24 to Monday, November 7, 2022 with the fate of the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment ultimately being decided on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, 2022.