The Russellville City Council defeated Thursday, in a 4-4 tie, approval of a medical marijuana dispensary, with Mayor Richard Harris refusing to cast a tie-breaking vote, KARK reports.
420 RX has state approval to open in Russellville on Arkansas Avenue, but local approval is required. State law says dispensaries are entitled to the same zoning given pharmacies, but opposition on the council seemed to be mainly anti-marijuana.
“Mind you, people would come from all over, but our job is to protect and do the best we can for the people of Russellville,” council member Rick Harrell said.
And the mayor, when the tie developed?
“As your mayor, I will not cast a vote on this issue because it’s so divided and I will let the council make the decision on this,” Mayor Richard Harris said.
420RX said it would appeal in court.
The dispute — and the sensitivity to anti-marijuana sentiment — is interesting in light of the ongoing debate over whether a casino will open in Pope County. A constitutional amendment allows a casino there, but it would require approval of city or county officials. Voters in Pope County opposed the casino amendment and also passed a constitutionally dubious ordinance requiring a local vote before a local official could clear a casino permit. The mayor and county judge to date have said they won’t approve a casino without voter approval.
Pope County voters in 2016 also opposed the medical marijuana initiative, with 11,587 opposed and 10,642 in favor. I haven’t been able to run down the vote in Russellville proper on the marijuana measure.
CORRECTION: In the original post I misidentified the mayor in the opening sentence.