A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana went up in smoke Tuesday. Arkansas voters solidly rejected a plan to decriminalize cannabis, six years after they voted for medical marijuana.
But some good news for marijuana advocates: Issue 2, the proposed constitutional amendment referred by the Arkansas legislature that would have raised the threshold required to pass any change to the state Constitution to 60%, also went down. After voters approved medical marijuana and several minimum wage increases, state lawmakers passed laws to make it harder for citizen-initiated amendments or acts to get on the ballot, and it’s a safe bet to assume they’ll fiddle more. But 60% would’ve all but kept any citizen-initiated ballot measure from getting anywhere.
Down, too, went Issues 1, another stinker referred by the legislature that would have allowed the legislature to call itself into special session.Jason Rapert’s Issue 3 would enshrine “religious freedom” in the Constitution; it was too close to call when we called it a night.
The post-mortem on the failure of the recreational marijuana amendment will probably go on for a while. The campaign for the amendment, funded largely by medical marijuana cultivators, put some $14 million into passing it. That dwarfed the opposition, but money from poultry magnate Ron Cameron and conservative donor Richard Uihlein gave the opposition a boost, and every single prominent Arkansas Republican spent a fair amount of time detailing the horrors of weed. Meanwhile, proponents talked largely about supposedly feel-good outcomes if the measure passed: More money for cops! Fund cancer research! Create jobs! Not “marijuana is relatively harmless intoxicant with several beneficial qualities”!
Also, no one, aside from the authors of the amendment, liked the particulars of the proposal. It enshrined near monopolies in the constitution, hugely advantaging existing cultivators and dispensaries. Marijuana advocates David Couch and Melissa Fults seemed to make some inroads pushing the “wait for something better” line. I noticed for instance that Abby Road, Little Rock’s long time head shop, posted to Facebook opposing it.
Couch has said repeatedly that he can get it done in 2024, but he’ll need money. The folks already in the marijuana business, who have the money, will undoubtedly try again.
PS: Vote counting was still happening when I called it a night, but Missouri appeared on its way to legalizing marijuana. Might be some Arkansans newly interested in visiting the Show-Me State.