A total of nine North American states will be heading to the ballot box this November to vote on the future of cannabis policy. Some will be voting for or against the legalization of medical marijuana, while others will be putting recreational cannabis to the vote. Suffice to say, come the winter of 2016, cannabis policy across much of the United States may never be the same again.
Of course, it’s the states with the strictest existing marijuana policies where the biggest changes of all could come to pass just a few weeks from now. Arkansas being a prime example, where there have been no less than SEVEN attempts to get medical cannabis legalized up to now – all of which have gone up in smoke. It’s not as if they’re the only state to turn a blind eye to the clear benefits of medical cannabis, but they’re certainly not afraid of throwing the book at those who dare break the rules.
Even if they do happen to be the kinds of rules that should have been ousted (or at least relaxed) long ago.
It’s become pretty clear over recent years that as far as lawmakers in Arkansas are concerned, being well and truly left behind isn’t something that concerns them. Even as some of the most conservative states have taken at least a baby-step or two forward, harsh attitudes towards cannabis use in Arkansas have continued unabated. Weed and its consumption are actually quite prolific across the state – it’s just wise to ensure you’re not busted by a grumpy cop at the wrong time.
If you’re caught with any weed on your person at all that weighs in under four ounces, you could be looking at $2,500 in fines and up to a year in a state prison. But what’s even more shocking is that if you’re found to be in possession of the kind of equipment that suggests you’re planning to grow cannabis, that’s a fine of up to $10,000 and up to six years in jail. A Class D Felony – simply for being in possession of a grow-kit.
As for wasting police time, it’s all in the figures. Back in 2012, the annual cannabis arrest tally hit 5,718 – more than 90% of which were for simple possession. During the same 12-month period, 90% of vehicle thefts were unsolved and 91% of all burglaries also went unsolved. Suffice to say, a pretty clear imbalance with regard to where efforts should have been focused.
A Little Left Behind
It’s probably fair to say that residents of Arkansas have been feeling a little left out of the party as of late, watching their neighbours make far more pot progress than they have. Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas – all states where at least some progress has been made as of late…the same not being said for Arkansas. And when watching what’s happening in Colorado etc., it’s all a pretty bitter pill to swallow.
Well, the good news is that the moment millions have been waiting for might finally be on the horizon. Recreational cannabis might be a way off yet, but this coming November will see the people of Arkansas taking part in a historic vote on the future of medical marijuana. If the 2016 Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act goes ahead, it will for the first time be legal to use cannabis for medical purposes state-wide.
The Arkansas Attorney General has certified the proposal, which now needs the signatures of at least 65,000 voters for the measure to make its way to the General Election Ballot. Arcompassion is leading the charge and seems to be onto a winner – all signs are pointing to it all going ahead as planned. If it all goes the way of cannabis advocates, what happens next will be overseen by the Arkansas Public Health Department, resulting in the creation of 38 cannabis centres operating across the state on a 100% non-profit basis.
And if you happen to be a registered Arkansas voter and would like to add your name to the appeal, head over to THIS PAGE and find out where and how to do exactly that.
On a Knife’s Edge
Exactly how things will pan out when push comes to shove remains something of a mystery. The reason being that not too long ago, a poll carried out state-wide showed that just 45% of those who took part were in favour of cannabis being legalized for medical purposes. It’s therefore hoped that the positive publicity medical marijuana has generated in the meantime will have had an impact on the opinions of voters.
And indeed it appears it might have…at least according to the results of more recent polls. Specifically, Talk Business and Politics carried out a sizeable poll to gauge what was happening right now, which brought back an approval rating in favour of medical marijuana of around 60%. But even if the measure does go ahead Arkansas faces the same long and frustrating fight as the other 25 states currently running legal medical cannabis operations, where stubborn federal law continues to make life unnecessarily difficult.
Let’s not forget, even medical cannabis continues to be classified as a Schedule 1 Drug under federal law – i.e. illegal.
“No marijuana business can have a checking account, or a deposit account, debit card, credit card, or access to the payment system at all, because the federal system rules,” warned Arkansas Bankers Association president Bill Holmes.
“The bank’s concern on that is that we have that market, we want our communities to be safe, we certainly want our small businesses to be safe, and to thrive,”
“It’s not a good situation when you have to haul cash everywhere.”
All of which means that contrary to the blinkered predictions of critics, legalization of cannabis in any way, shape or form cannot and will not lead to the streets suddenly becoming flooded with the stuff overnight.
Still, the more states that make the decision to amend their own policies on cannabis, the greater the pressure on the government to finally reclassify cannabis.
It’s going to happen eventually…quite simply because it HAS to.
Few Regrets in Colorado
As is the case with the other nine states headed to the ballot box this November, businesses, lawmakers and indeed citizens all over Arkansas will be looking to Colorado for perspective on what to expect. Colorado has become something of research hub for the entire country, providing important insights as to what exactly happens when cannabis is suddenly legalized.
Depending on the source you get your information from, you could easily be convinced of one of two extremes. Opponents insist that Colorado’s citizens regret heavily the decision to legalize pot – others will tell you it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. But in order to find out the truth, you have to speak to the people themselves – exactly what the folks over at The Cannabist did to see what they really thought of things post-legalization.
As for the results of their study, it’s an outcome that should be relatively obvious on the whole. The vast majority of Colorado’s citizens say that they believe the legalization of cannabis has been beneficial for the state in general. What’s more, they’d happily vote in favour of the measure once again, were it to be put to the vote this year. The poll was carried out by Public Policy Polling on behalf of the Marijuana Policy Project.
It’s perhaps one of the more important polls carried out to date, as rather than focusing on the opinions of lawmakers, experts, campaign groups and so on, it focused entirely on those for whom laws and policies exist in the first place. And as far as they’re concerned, it was the right decision at the right time.
But what’s even more important to take into account when considering the situation in Arkansas is that Colorado was voting on recreational cannabis. In Arkansas, it’s only medical cannabis that’s headed to the vote – as in highly-controlled cannabis only for use by those with full authorisation. If an entire state seems to have very little regret after legalizing recreational cannabis state-wide, the likelihood of citizens regretting the green-lighting of medical cannabis has to be near-zero.
Falsehoods and Fakery
What’s also significant about the poll carried out in Colorado is the way in which it exposes the lies and misleading headlines of anti-cannabis campaigners. There are still so many out there who’d have the world believe that Colorado is falling apart at the seams and that the public regrets the biggest mistake made in decades. In reality, this is complete and utter BS concocted by critics to mislead and deceive.
Indeed, several counties across Colorado have implemented their own unnecessarily harsh restrictions on cannabis distribution and consumption – none of which have been put to the vote or even gained a semblance of public approval.
Still, it can only be hoped that the people of Arkansas make their decisions on the back of hard evidence and facts, rather than the lies cooked up by those with a somewhat inexplicable agenda.