Support for Arkansas’ adult-use cannabis ballot initiative, Issue 4, appears to have lost steam in the past month as opponents continue to lambast the legalization initiative ahead of Election Day.
Roughly 50.5% of Arkansans are in favor of the November 2022 ballot measure, while 43% oppose it and 6.5% remain undecided, according to pollsters from Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College, who conducted a survey Oct. 17-18 with input from 974 likely voters.
While the majority opinion still holds a 7 1/2-point lead in that poll, the results indicate the issue’s backing is fading quickly. Last month, TB&P-Hendrix pollsters announced that majority support held a 58.5% to 29% lead during a Sept. 12 survey, when 12.5% of respondents were undecided.
In other words, support for the issue fell eight points, while opposition rose 14 points in a little more than a month between the two surveys.
“Issue 4, which would legalize adult-use cannabis, has seen tremendous movement over the past month,” TB&P Editor-in-Chief Roby Brock said in announcing the more recent poll. “Opponents have been able to improve their standing by swaying undecided voters and even peeling off some soft support that was once there. I think the media campaigns for and against this measure make it the most interesting statewide race to watch on election night.”
Sponsored by Responsible Growth Arkansas—which is led by former Arkansas state Rep. Eddie Armstrong (D)—Issue 4 would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older, including the possession of up to 1 ounce.
Also under the amendment, the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) division would regulate a licensed program for commercial cultivation and retail. There would be a 10% “supplemental sales” tax at retail with revenue dedicated as follows:
- 15% to fund an annual stipend to all full-time law enforcement officers certified by the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training;
- 10% to fund operations of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS);
- 5% to fund drug court programs authorized by the Arkansas Drug Court Act; and
- 70% would be allocated to the state’s general fund.
Lance Huey, a former Arkansas State Police trooper and sergeant, who also served nearly two-terms as the Grant County Sheriff, expressed support for the issue, KATV reported last month.
“The funding for law enforcement, for drug courts, for UAMS for research—I think that as a career law enforcement officer, and now that I’m in the Arkansas cannabis business—one of the questions that everybody always asks, or statements that people make to me, ‘I just wish they would legalize it and tax it and use the money for the common good,’” Huey said.
But since the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Sept. 22 that Issue 4 will in fact be decided by voters this November, politicians who oppose the ballot measure have continued to voice their resistance to legalization.
That opposition includes voices that carry weight among the state’s voters, including former Gov. Mike Huckabee, current Gov. Asa Hutchinson and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders. That Republican trio has vowed to vote no on Issue. 4.
“The science is clear,” Hutchinson said Sept. 9 on social media. “Recreational marijuana leads to increased drug use among minors [and] more dangerous roadways.”
Brian Vicente, co-founder of Denver-based cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, who helped draft Colorado’s adult-use cannabis ballot measure, Amendment 64, in 2012, recently told Cannabis Business Times for a separate overarching election article that Arkansas’ path toward reform stands out among the five states with 2022 ballot measures.
“Arkansas is a fascinating one because the governor, Asa Hutchinson, is one of the architects of the drug war,” Vicente said. “I mean, he used to be head of the DEA. So, he’s come out very against this, but yet the people, poll after poll, are really supporting it. So, is he going to seek to undermine democracy in his state and undermine the will of the people? We’ll see.”
Vicente’s remarks came before TB&P-Hendrix pollsters announced the results from their latest survey showing declining support for Issue 4.
In addition to Hutchinson’s opposition, Huckabee, who was governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007, before running an unsuccessful campaign for president in 2008, released a YouTube video Sept. 27 urging voters to oppose Issue 4.
“If you’re one of those people who get to sell the drug, maybe you’ll make a buck off of the gullible people who will somehow convince themselves that [adult-use cannabis] is absolutely harmless and innocent. But it isn’t,” Huckabee said. “I can’t think of a dumber way for people to somehow believe that our state and its citizens, and especially our children, are going to be better off for somehow making recreational drugs a part of their daily life.”
His daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as White House press secretary for two years under Donald Trump, and is now running for Arkansas governor, is also campaigning against the issue. She told reporters Oct. 3 she plans to vote against the measure.
“I don’t think that with the drug epidemic that we have across this state, frankly across the country, that adding and giving more access to that does anything to benefit Arkansas, so I certainly wouldn’t be supportive of that,” she said, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
While those big-name Republicans oppose the reform effort, Issue 4 has gained support from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Jones, according to his campaign website, and Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ricky Dale Harrington Jr., according to the Democrat-Gazette.
But the ballot measure’s passage, which appeared all but certain last month, has shifted to an election nailbiter, according to Jay Barth, an emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College who helped craft and analyze the latest TB&P-Hendrix poll.
“An issue that felt like a slam dunk before the Supreme Court action now feels like a very close call,” Barth said in the poll’s release. “Issue 4 is, for sure, advantaged but this one will likely be close.
CBT Editor Theresa Bennett contributed to this report.