Legalize for All: Arkansas Marijuana Initiative Would End Prohibition, Free Pot Prisoners

Although the thought of Arkansas becoming the first southern state to bring down the scourge of prohibition may seem unlikely, marijuana advocates learned this week that their proposal seeking to legalize weed in the Land of Opportunity now has a fighting chance at going before voters in the November election

On Monday, after rejecting a proposed ballot measure nine times, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge put her stamp of approval on an initiative that would allow the “cultivation, production, distribution, sale, possession, and use of the cannabis plant and cannabis-related products” for both medical and recreational purposes.

The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment (ACA), which was brought forth by Summit resident Mary Berry, is perhaps one of the most comprehensive marijuana ballot measures to ever surface over the past two decades in the United States. That’s because rather than alienate a particular sector of marijuana users, the initiative aims to simply end the state’s prohibitionary standard by allowing adults 21 and over to use marijuana for whatever reason they see fit.

"It's going to be treated very similar to alcohol,” Don Lane of Arkansas True Grass told KTHV-11. "The medicinal people will get what they need, the people who like to sit down and have a beer on the weekends can sit down and have some cannabis on the weekends." 

According to the proposed constitutional amendment, marijuana would be sold in retail outlets across the state. Each transaction on recreational marijuana would come with a 5 percent excise tax in addition to the state’s 6.5 percent sales tax. However, the sale of marijuana to patients with a written recommendation from a licensed physician would be free of taxation.

The most fascinating aspect of the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment is its dedication to home cultivation. The language of the initiative suggests that anyone 21 years of age or older may obtain a marijuana license permitting the cultivation of up to 36 cannabis plants. The measure implies that these license holders would be permitted to sell the fruits of their labor as long as the tax rules are followed in accordance with state law.

Unlike similar ballot measures than have been proposed and passed across the country, Berry’s proposal comes with a provision that demands the “release from incarceration, probation, or parole” as well as the expungement of records for anyone convicted solely of a marijuana-related offense. Although local officials told KTHV-11 that there were “very few prisoners locked up on just marijuana charges,” there are potentially thousands of people living in the state that have been unable to find a decent job or get into college because their record is marred by a drug conviction. The ACA would rectify this injustice. 

Before Berry’s grand plan of marijuana legalization can be realized, she and other supporters will need to collect around 85,000 verifiable signatures before July 8 in order to earn a spot on the November ballot.

Some of the latest polls indicate that Arkansas strongly supports legal marijuana—84 percent of voters believe that weed should be made legal for medical purposes. Although Berry’s proposal would legalize marijuana across the board, it would provide access to the herb for every patient currently living without effective relief. 

(Photo Courtesy of WQOW)

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