Lawmakers protect medical cannabis patients’ firearm rights
Last November, Arkansas voters rejected a constitutional ballot initiative that would have legalized cannabis for adults. As activists regroup and consider routes for future legalization efforts, the state has seen some recent changes in the medical cannabis program.
A bill approved in the state legislature and signed by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders protecting Arkansas medical cannabis patients’ right to concealed carry of a firearm went into effect in August. The issue of cannabis consumers’ firearm rights remains a contentious issue among federal courts and agencies.
Meanwhile, an Arkansas judge struck down several amendments to the state’s medical cannabis law previously approved by the state legislature. The ruling states that lawmakers overstepped their authority by imposing limits on the constitutional medical cannabis program approved by voters in 2016.
Ballot measure to legalize cannabis for adults falls short
In November 2022, for the first time ever, an initiated constitutional measure to legalize cannabis for adults appeared on the Arkansas ballot. With just over half of eligible voters participating in the election, Issue 4 was defeated by a 56.3% - 43.7% margin.
Opponents relied on a standard playbook of fear tactics to fight against the proposal, and although the measure would have directed cannabis tax revenue to Arkansas police departments, many local law enforcement groups urged voters to reject Issue 4. Several prominent politicians also campaigned against the ballot measure. Existing medical cannabis businesses in Arkansas were major backers of the effort.
Despite the loss, there is good reason to believe Arkansas voters are supportive of cannabis legalization in principle. Recent polls show that a majority of residents favor the idea, which suggests there is hope for future attempts to legalize cannabis. Fortunately, voters also soundly defeated Issue 2, which would have made future ballot initiatives more difficult to pass by raising the threshold for approval for constitutional amendments from a 50% simple majority to a 60% supermajority.
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A new poll by Starboard Communications found 72% of South Carolina voters support allowing medical cannabis and only 15% are opposed! But because South Carolina doesn’t have a citizens’ initiative process, the only way to translate that overwhelming support into law is for the state legislature to act.