Arkansas Voters Will Get to Decide on Legalizing Medical Marijuana This Fall

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 27, 2016) – The Arkansas Secretary of State has approved a ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in the state. This provides the opportunity to take another step toward nullifying federal prohibition in effect.

Earlier this month, the secretary of state’s office announced it had verified at least 77,516 of the more than 117,000 signatures submitted for the proposed initiated act by Arkansans for Compassionate Care. Voter initiated acts require at least 67,887 signatures to get on the ballot.

With the initiative signatures approved, voters will decide in November whether or not to legalize cannabis for medical use. According to The Weed Blog, the proposed law includes provisions for some patients to grow their own marijuana.

The measure would allow for medical cannabis to be produced, tested, and distributed to patients diagnosed by a physician. Qualifications for accessing a medical marijuana card is specified as a patient having one of over 50 qualifying conditions that can be bought at one of the 38 licensed nonprofit care centers. In order for patients to grow their own marijuana, they must receive a ‘hardship certificate’ that states they do not live a reasonable distance from one of the care centers.

A similar measure fell short in 2012, garnering 48 percent of the vote.

A recent poll indicates strong support for legalizing medical marijuana in Arkansas with 58 percent favoring and only 34 percent in opposition. But the measure will face strong opposition. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson formerly headed up the DEA. Unsurprisingly, he opposes the legalizing medicinal cannabis.

“I believe that while we want to provide medicine to anyone who needs it, this opens a lot of doors that causes more problems than it solves,” Hutchinson told reporters (archived link).

A conservative group called the Family Council Action Committee also opposes legalizing medical marijuana. A spokesperson for the organization said they plan to review the petitions for a possible legal challenge and may also challenge the initiative’s language in court.

A state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana could also appear on the ballot. The secretary of state continues to review signatures for that ballot measure.


Legalization of medical marijuana in Arkansas would remove one layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition would remain in place.

Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

While Arkansas law would not alter federal law, it would take a step toward nullifying in effect the federal ban. FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By easing state prohibition, Arkansas could essentially sweeps away part of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

Arkansas could join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition. Colorado, Washington state and Alaska have all legalized both recreational and medical marijuana, and more than two-dozen states now allow cannabis for medical use. With half the country legalizing marijuana, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more. The feds need state cooperation to fight the “drug war,” and that has rapidly evaporated in the last few years with state legalization, practically nullifying the ban.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

About Tenth Amendment Center
The Tenth Amendment Center is a national think tank that works to preserve and protect the principles of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism. The center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of state and individual sovereignty issues, focusing primarily on the decentralization of federal government power as required by the Constitution. For more information visit the Tenth Amendment Center Blog.

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