Adult-Use Cannabis on Arkansas Ballot, Backers Outraise Opponents

The ballot initiative allows for possession and personal use of cannabis, but not sales or growing.

Arkansas voters have the chance on Nov. 8 to approve adult use of marijuana regardless of residency.

The state certified Issue 4, which allows for possession and personal use of cannabis but still bars those who want to privately grow or sell it, in July after Responsible Growth Arkansas collected more than double the amount of signatures needed to qualify for a spot on the midterm election ballot.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing though. The Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners tried to kick the proposal in August, with the state’s attorney general following suit later that month, arguing that the measure was “misleading” because it did not explicitly limit the amount of THC allowed within a standard serving of edibles.

That move was appealed by proponents, and the Arkansas Supreme Court eventually overturned the ruling on Sept. 22, allowing votes cast for or against Issue 4 to be counted come election time.

“We give the ballot title a liberal construction and interpretation in order that it secure the purposes of reserving to the people this power,” the justices wrote. “And we recognize that it is impossible to prepare a ballot title that would suit everyone.”

The court concluded, “With these standards in mind, we conclude that the ballot title at issue is complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import of the proposed amendment. Therefore, Respondents and Intervenors have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient. The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November.”

Responsible Growth Arkansas reported raising more than $4 million to support the measure, according to Arkansas Ethics Commission filings. Donors included a slew of cultivators and dispensaries that already take part in the state’s medical marijuana program, which was approved by voters in 2016.

Opponents, such as Safe and Secure Communities and Family Council Action Committee, raised more than $2 million to oppose the effort.

Measure details

According to the terms of the amendment, the state may issue a 10% supplemental tax on recreational cannabis sales, in addition to the existing state and local sales tax.

Tax revenue would be divided up as such:

  • 15% to law enforcement.
  • 10% to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  • 5% to the state’s adult drug court program.
  • “Sufficient” appropriation of funds, in combination with revenues from commercial facilities’ licensing fees, toward operating expenses incurred by Alcohol Beverage Control Board (ABC), the Department of Health, and the Medical Marijuana Commission for regulating adult-use marijuana.
  • Remaining revenue toward to the state’s general revenue fund.

There are no social equity provisions for those who were harmed by the drug war.

Municipalities can also hold local elections to prohibit retail sales.

Read the text of the full ballot measure below.

Arkansas Adult-Use Cannabis Ballot Initiative

Adam Jackson

Adam Jackson covers the cannabis industry for The Green Market Report. He previously covered the Missouri statehouse for The Columbia Missourian and has written for The Missouri Independent. He most recently covered retail, restaurants, and other consumer companies for Bloomberg Business News. You can find him on Twitter @adam_sjackson and email him at adam.jackson@crain.com.


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