Issues 6 and 7 on the Arkansas state ballot are causing controversy after this election. The issues, which deal with medicinal marijuanaand its legalization, are controversial topics in Arkansas, with the latter, issue 7, stripped rom the ballot not twelve days before the election.
Veronica McClane organized a protest outside the state supreme court. She claims that the state supreme court took away the people’s right to vote by striking Issue 7, especially at such a late stage. She expressed her concern that democracy had been usurped through clever litigation, pointing to the timing of the court case.
Although the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, or Issue 6, passed, some think it is not enough. Issue 6 limited and legalized the medical use of marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions. Issue 6 also privileges pharmaceutical companies. In contrast, Issue 7 would have legalized the medical use for 56 qualifying conditions and allocated revenue to provide low-income patients with medical marijuana.
John Brown University student Sydney Sharp is an advocate for legalizing medical marijuana. Sharp believes that people would view the legalization of marijuana differently if they had a personal investment in it like she does. She has family members who struggle with chronic health issues and have found relief through cannabis use.
“The goal is to get patients what they need, but it’s hard for people to get past the persona of a stoner,” Sharp said.
Sharp’s opinion is by no means ubiquitous, or even popular, on campus. Sharp presented the topic to her class and was immediately met with a negative reception.
The stoner persona Sharp spoke of is one reason some are so adamant against the legalization of cannabis. Jerry Cox, the executive directior of the Family Council Action Committee, said in conversation with a local reporter that medical marijuana issues on the ballot are “just a backdoor way for people to smoke as much as they want–people that are otherwise healthy.”
People like Cox fought against Issue 7 and had it struck from the ballot for clerical errors as the court disqualified enough of the signatures on the petition.
The November vote affirmed the cannabis industry’s legal expansion as nine different states voted on marijuana-related initiatives with eight passing. Four states considered legal medical marijuana and five chose to legalize recreational marijuana use. However, there are some concerns, as Sharp expressed, of what will occur now that the political climate has shifted in favor of republicans, as republicans tend to be against the legalization of marijuana.
There has been a significant amount of speculation on what could happen to the legal status of marijuana during Donald Trump’s presidential term due to little continuity of opinion between President-elect Trump and those around him on the topic. Whether Issue 7 will transform into a new initiative in Arkansas and pass or whether the White House will do its best to stifle the movement is to be determined.