Voters Tuesday rejected Issue 4, a measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis, to the dismay of Arkansas cannabis advocates who worked hard to push the bill forward.
Led by Responsible Growth Arkansas, advocates promoted the approval of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution which would have authorized the possession, personal use, and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and over, as well as the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities.
The bill would have authorized licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis produced by licensed medical and adult-use cultivation facilities, including cannabis produced under Amendment 98, beginning on March 8, 2023.
Critics of the bill said it lacked expungement provisions and that it didn’t allow for home growing. And as a constitutional amendment, it would be difficult to make those changes further down the line. Even longtime cannabis advocates in the state opposed the bill because of these omissions.
From the get-go, Issue 4 faced challenges in a state that typically votes conservative. First, state officials, including Arkansas’ secretary of state, challenged the validity of the measure, which would be an amendment to the state’s constitution. Advocates submitted more than enough valid signatures for the proposal to qualify for the ballot, but the state Board of Election Commissioners rejected the measure, explaining that the ballot title did not adequately explain the amendment to voters.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a joint press briefing October 31 at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock, joining insurance, construction, truckers, and agriculture officials to speak out against Issue 4.
“This puts us at a disadvantage in [the] recruiting industry if Issue 4 passes,” Hutchinson said, citing how workplace drug testing would be impacted.
Opponents of the bill pointed out that it does not expunge criminal records, nor does it allow for home growing. And if passed, the amendment cannot be altered by the Arkansas State Legislature. For now, only medical cannabis is legal in Arkansas under Amendment 98.