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Issue 4: What legalizing recreational marijuana in Arkansas would mean

Ballot Issue 4 will allow voters to decide on whether to legalize recreational marijuana for Arkansans over the age of 21.

ARKANSAS, USA — Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022. 

Of the four issues that will be found on the voting ballot in Arkansas, perhaps the most contentious is the choice of legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana—Issue 4.

Issue 4 is the only citizen-proposed measure on the 2022 ballot, meaning that it garnered Arkansas residents' signatures in order to get in front of voters on the 2022 ballot. The other three issues are being introduced by state lawmakers.

Just a few years after medical marijuana was legalized in the Natural State, the proposal to change the state's constitution to include recreational marijuana has drawn reactions from opponents and supporters of legalization.

However, the journey to the ballot was rocky. Let's start with the timeline.


July 2022: Over 192,000 signatures were submitted to the state by Responsible Growth Arkansas (RGA), the group that spearheaded the petition. The number of signatures far exceeded the 89,151 certified signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Aug. 3, 2022: The Board of Election Commission denied certification to include the issue on the ballot, one of the reasons because of the way it was worded. RGA soon appealed the state's decision.

Aug. 11: The state Supreme Court ordered that while it decided on whether the votes should count, allowing the measure to be on the ballot. Ballots were to begin being printed by Aug. 25, which wouldn't have given the Supreme Court enough time to make its final decision.

Sept. 22: The Arkansas Supreme Court decided that the ballot issue was "complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import" of the amendment, meaning that the votes toward legalizing marijuana in Arkansas would in fact be counted.

"We give the ballot title a liberal construction and interpretation in order that it secure the purposes of reserving to the people this power. And we recognize that it is impossible to prepare a ballot title that would suit everyone," The Court said in part within its decision.

RELATED: Campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas could be boosted by Biden's pardons

What exactly is Issue 4?

The exact wording of the issue on the ballot will be:


An amendment to authorize the possession, personal use, and consumption of cannabis by adults, to authorize the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities, and to provide for the regulation of those facilities.

Voting for the amendment would mean changing the state's constitution, authorizing the growing and selling of marijuana for non-medical purposes as well as:

  • Giving existing medical marijuana growers and sellers licenses to grow and sell adult use of non-medical marijuana
  • Authorizing 12 additional cultivation licenses and 40 dispensary licenses for adult use of marijuana
  • Eliminating an existing sales tax on medical marijuana 
  • Introducing a sales tax on adult-use marijuana
  • Eliminating a cap on how much THC can be in medical marijuana-infused drinks and food portions
  • Making clear that lawmakers have no authority to change the amendment without another vote of the people
  • Changing rules for businesses licensed to grow and sell marijuana in Arkansas

If you vote against the issue, the only way you believe marijuana should be purchased is for medical purposes— something that is already legal in the state.

RELATED: Poll: Majority of Arkansans support recreational marijuana, abortion law changes

Facts to know:

What are the nuts and bolts of Issue 4 if it is passed? There are a few basics that would be clear if Arkansas voters choose to be the first state in the South to legalize cannabis.

Marijuana would be legal for people over the age of 21 to purchase for nonmedical, personal use while also recognizing the drug is still illegal under federal law.

Medical marijuana cardholders will be able to purchase nonmedical marijuana without it counting toward how much they can buy for medical purposes.

If the amendment passes, the state would have to issue 40 non-medical marijuana dispensary licenses using a lottery system. 

The existing 40 dispensaries in the state would automatically receive a license to sell non-medical marijuana at their current location beginning on March 8, 2023.

The proposal also authorizes those 40 medical marijuana dispensaries to receive a second new license to sell non-medical marijuana at another location no more than five miles away from any medical marijuana dispensary.

If approved, the soonest Arkansas residents over the age of 21 could purchase up to one ounce of cannabis would be March 8, 2023.

The proposed amendment defines cannabis as "marijuana and other substances including any parts of the plant Cannabis sativa, whether growing or not, its seeds and the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, isomer or preparation of the plant, including tetrahydrocannabinol and all other cannabinol derivatives, whether produced directly or indirectly by extraction."

Taxes to rec. marijuana

If issue four passes, existing taxes for medical use would be eliminated. 

Instead, recreational marijuana sales will be taxed up to 16.5 percent.

The tax will be made up of two different taxes, 6.5% will be from the standard state sales tax. Then, there will be an additional 10% supplemental tax.

An economic impact analysis conducted for 'Responsible Growth Arkansas' shows over a 5-year period receipts from that supplemental tax alone could total more than 303 million dollars.

The money from the supplemental sales tax will be split between law enforcement stipends, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences,  and drug court programs.

Below is the breakdown of how the money would be split:

- 70% would go to the state's general fund to help pay for those overseeing the program and licenses

- 15% would go to pay a yearly stipend to law enforcement officers

- 10% will go toward UAMS

- The remaining 5% will be set aside to fund drug court programs

Over the five years that equates to a projected $212 million for the general fund, $45 million for law enforcement stipends, $30 million for UAMS, and $15 million for drug court.

According to the study, much of the potential economic impact will come from purchases by out-of-state consumers. Specifically, new tourists are expected to be attracted to vacation in Arkansas because of marijuana’s availability.

For more in-depth information on Issue 4 and the other measures on the ballot in the 2022 election, click here.

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