We knew it was coming.
Back in 2016 Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana.
Not everyone was happy about it, though. And many critics said it was just a stepping stone for the ultimate goal—legal marijuana for recreational use.
It's been a long road getting the medical marijuana business up and running in the state. The legislation had some pretty string regulation and licensing requirements attached. Even now there are just a couple of dispensaries operating.
More are expected to open soon—including right here in Texarkana. But if one group has its way those dispensaries will soon be selling pot to any adult over 21, regardless of medical necessity.
The group Drug Policy Education has filed a notice with the secretary of state that it intends to circulate two ballot petitions. One would allow recreational marijuana, with sales to begin on Dec. 4, 2020. The other would allow people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes to have the records cleared.
Residents would be able to grow a small number of plants at home as well. Drug Policy Education says taxes from legal sales would bring much needed revenue to the state.
But foes, such as the Arkansas Family Council, says there is more harm to good in legal recreational marijuana.
Proponents still must gather signatures and get them certified before residents have a chance to decide the issue. And we won't guess the outcome of the vote. We didn't think medical marijuana would pass, but it did—narrowly.
We are not in favor of legal recreational marijuana. But we see pretty clearly that it's inevitable. Maybe not this time around, but eventually, not only in Arkansas but across the country. Changing demographics and attitudes pretty much ensure it.
It's important to remember, though, that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Everyone involved in "legal" marijuana is committing a federal crime. Anyone owning a gun and regularly using or possessing marijuana—even with a medical card—is committing another crime. Since federal law outweighs state law, all it would take is a renewed effort from Washington to bring all of this crashing down.
Until the federal government legalizes marijuana, any effort to support a state effort is pointless.