Arkansas voters will have their say today on Issue 4, a constitutional amendment to legalize adult-use. The state is one of five with a shot at legalization in this election.
Polls close at 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT.
Stay tuned to this page, where we will provide updates on election returns throughout the night—as well as reactions from stakeholders on the ground in Arkansas. (We’ll also be following along with THV11’s coverage of the Arkansas election, if you’re interested in some local news angles.)
Read the full initiative below.
In 2016, Arkansas voters approved a medical cannabis initiative with 53% of the vote. Recent polling from the past few weeks suggests about 50% support for the 2022 adult-use legalization amendment, however, a notable decline from polling conducted just a few weeks prior. In part, that’s because a suite of vocal opponents has come out against Issue 4 (while being fervently in support of cannabis legalization in the abstract), including Arkansas NORML, which had a hand in its own 2020 effort to legalize adult-use cannabis.
“When you control the industry, you can set the prices to whatever you want to and make people pay it,” Melissa Fults of Arkansas NORML said. “[Issue 4] would also destroy the medical industry we worked so hard to build. It’s worth the risk to vote ‘No’. Something is not always better than nothing. This is not better than nothing. This is actually worse.” (Fults helped write the original 2016 medical cannabis amendment.)
Supporters of Issue 4, including the campaign organization Responsible Growth Arkansas, leaned into the public safety aspects of legalization.
“We all know that funding and supporting the police is important,” according to an advertisement run by Responsible Growth Arkansas. “Our brave men and women in law enforcement deserve our support. You can vote to support our law enforcement by voting for Issue 4 this election. Issue 4 will safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older, and creates revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments, more funding for protecting our communities, more funding for safer streets. A vote for Issue 4 is a vote to support our police.”
Read more in our earlier report on Issue 4, which includes a breakdown of how multiple efforts at legalizing cannabis in Arkansas led to this particular moment:
To supply the market under Issue 4’s structure, the state would issue eight Tier 1 cultivation licenses to the current medical growers. The state would issue another 12 Tier 2 cultivation licenses. Those Tier 2 license-holders would be capped at 250 mature plants at a given time.
On the retail side, the state would extend opportunities for medical dispensaries to serve adult-use customers, as well. The 40 extant medical dispensary license holders would be allowed to begin serving adult-use customers and go on to open another recreational-only dispensary location. And then the state would tee up another 40 retail licenses to be issued at a later date. That would bring the total to 120 dispensary locations across the state.
In Arkansas, medical dispensaries may also grow a limited number of plants and operate as vertically integrated businesses on a small scale.
“The measurable economic impact of introducing an adult-use marijuana market, including economic activity diverted from illicit markets, is estimated to increase state gross domestic product by up to $2.36 billion over five years and increase employment of up to 6,400 jobs by 2027,” Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, said in a press release announcing a new economic impact study.