On Tuesday, November 8th, voters around the country weighed in on a contentious issue at the polls: marijuana legalization. In five states, namely Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota, voters participated in direct ballot initiatives related to marijuana.
In Arkansas in particular, if the ballot measure had passed, it would have legalized cannabis possession of up to one ounce, permitted recreational consumption among adults, and allowed the sale of marijuana by licensed dispensaries.
Adults ages 21 and up would have become eligible to legally purchase and possess cannabis with the medical card that is currently required at dispensaries.
The rejection of the measure does not represent a departure from expectations, as Arkansas is a deep red state whose residents have traditionally rancorously opposed such initiatives. The outcome of Arkansas's vote may be a bellwether indicating how other red states will respond to marijuana amendments in the future.
The amendment faced opposition from across the political continuum, uniting a motley coalition of both progressives and conservatives. In fact, according to Axios, even pro-legalization advocates denounched the amendment:
"Pro-legalization politicians and advocates encouraged voters to reject Issue 4, arguing it would give money and concentrated power to the marijuana industry while failing to do enough to help those historically hurt by anti-marijuana laws. The proposed law would have taxed recreational marijuana at 16.5% and not decriminalized growing marijuana at home for personal use."
The measure lost by a relatively significant margin. Specifically, 56.3% voted against the measure, whereas 43.7% voted in favor. The amendment was placed on the ballot as part of a citizen-led ballot initiative that required the collection of a sufficient number of signatures from registered voters.
Since the measure was jettisoned, Arkansans who qualify for a medical license will continue to have access to medical marijuana, but recreational marijuana will remain off the table -- at least for the time being.