Recreational marijuana could become legal in Arkansas if voters approve

ARKANSAS — Arkansas residents are set to vote Tuesday on whether to legalize recreational marijuana.

It’s a big issue on the ballot, and Arkansas could become the first Mid-South state to legalize marijuana.

If voters approve it, the state must allow dispensaries to start selling weed for recreational use by March 2023.

Read the amendment here.

Philip McQuiston, of Memphis, has a medical marijuana card.

“I don’t like conventional medicines,” he said. “I think they’re bad for you, so my doctor suggested medical marijuana.”

McQuiston may soon not even need his card to buy weed in Arkansas.

Scott Hardin, with the Arkansas Department of Finance, said, “It’s built into the actual proposal that the state has to have the first licenses out the door by March of 2023, meaning the existing medical facilities would be probably selling recreational by March.”

Issue 4 on the Arkansas ballot asks voters to decide whether to allow anyone over the age of 21 to buy marijuana. That’s an addition to medical marijuana, which has been sold in the state since 2019.

Ashley Hawkins, lead bud tender for Green Light of West Memphis, said, “A lot of patients come in with different sicknesses like fibromyalgia, anxiety, insomnia, PTSD. We have seen it all.”

Green Light is one of 38 dispensaries in Arkansas already preparing for a so-called “green rush,” expecting their business to triple if recreational use is approved.

MORE: Shelby County D.A. supports legalizing marijuana in Arkansas

State leaders are also anticipating the influx.

Hardin said, “We are planning and bracing, if this does pass we have to have the infrastructure in place and be ready at the state level and be ready to accommodate that, should that rush come.”

State officials said patients in Arkansas have spent more then $700 million on medical marijuana since 2019, generating $84 million in tax revenue.

The proposed amendment would eliminate taxes for medical users and instead charge nearly a 17 percent tax for everyone else.

It’s a change that one study showed could generate an additional $500 million over the next five years.

Right now taxes from medical marijuana go toward medical research across Arkansas.

Recreational use taxes would go toward law enforcement, drug courts and health care.

Polls in Arkansas close at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

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