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Arkansas Poll Shows Majority Support For Legal Marijuana

Meanwhile, raising the bar for ballot initiatives to 60% — seen by many as a way to thwart legalization — is unpopular

Miriam Coleman (buy her book!)

Legalization of marijuana for adult use has majority support among Arkansas voters, according to a new poll. And since it’s ”the Natural State,” you’ll forgive us if we say that’s only natural. The poll is from Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

This is particularly relevant news right now. That’s because at least two Arky voter initiatives are currently floating around. Both are trying to get enough signatures to qualify for the 2022 Arkansas ballot.

Meanwhile, there’s a legislative effort to raise the passage threshold for ballot initiatives to 60%. It’s seen by many as a scheme to thwart legalization — and is opposed by a majority of voters.

In the latest survey, 961 likely Arkansas voters were asked: ”What do you think should be the legal status of marijuana in Arkansas — legal for use by adults 21 and over, legal only for medical purposes, or broadly illegal for any reason?

A majority, 53.5%, said Cannabis should be legal for adults. Thirty-two percent supported medicinal use only.

And just 10.5% said weed should be illegal for any purpose at all. Then there’s the annoying, obligatory 4% of ”Don’t know” dunderheads.

Earlier this year, the Arkansas Legislature referred several constitutional amendments to the ballot for consideration. These will be decided by voters in the November 2022 general election.

One proposal would alter the provisions for passage of citizen-introduced constitutional amendments by imposing a 60% threshold for passage. That’s rather than a majority of votes cast, as is the case under current law.

Just 6.5% of voters polled said the were ”definitely for” the amendment. ”Probably for” got 12.5%, bringing the total of those in favor to 19%. ”Probably against” got 27% and ”Definitely against” got 26%, meaning 53% are against the amendment. A hefty 28% ”Don’t know.”

“Perhaps No Issue Has Shown More Movement”

“Over our time of polling, perhaps no issue has shown more movement than have Arkansans’ attitudes on marijuana legalization,” said Dr. Jay Barth. He’s emeritus professor of politics at Hendrix College and is active in Democratic Party politics.

“After an attempt at legalization of medical marijuana failed at the ballot box in 2012, Arkansas voters narrowly passed a revised proposal in 2016,” Barth said. “Arkansans have become used to the presence of visible, legal marijuana in the state.

“The question now is whether it is time for the next big step: the legalization of regulated recreational marijuana for adults in the state,” Barth said. ”Our survey suggests that Arkansas voters may be ready to take that step.

Democrats, Independents Support Adult-Use Legalization

“However, while a slight majority of the state’s voters support recreational marijuana,” Barth cautioned, ”there are variations across key voting groups although there is increasing consensus opposed to criminalization of the drug. Even among Republican voters, the most opposed to legalization at all, eight in ten support either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana.

“While a plurality of Republicans support stopping at medical marijuana as the policy of the state, very healthy majorities of Democrats (71%) and Independents (64%) support recreational marijuana,” Dr. Barth pointed out.

”This may put Republican statewide candidates in a tough spot as they attempt to appeal to voters outside their party while maintaining their GOP base if the issue is before voters in the fall,” he said.

7 In 10 Voters Under 45 Support Legalization

“Aside from political party, the greatest variation is shown across age groups,” Barth said. “While seven in ten voters below 45 years support recreational marijuana and a slight majority of those 45 to 64 support the change, a plurality of the voters above 65 believe that maintaining the current legalization of medical marijuana only is the right place for the state’s policy.

“Men are also more supportive of recreational marijuana while women are more supportive of medical marijuana,” Barth said.

Racial and education subgroups show less variation. But according to Barth, ”nonwhite voters tend to be slightly more supportive of recreational marijuana, as are voters with a college degree.”

“Proponents For Legalization Have A Slight Breeze At Their Sails”

“With multiple competing ballot measures in the works, it appears that proponents for legalization have a slight breeze at their sails at the outset,” said Robert Coon, managing partner with Impact Management Group. IMG works with Republican political candidates; Coon helped craft and analyze the new poll.

“With 53% indicating they would vote against and only 19% for a 60% threshold for future ballot measures, the Arkansas state motto ‘Regnat Populus’ or ‘the people rule’ appears to be on brand. By the looks of it, the people want to keep it that way,” Coon said.

“At this current stage, voters seem simply disinclined to take away their own power at the ballot box,” Coon said. ”Efforts to pass this measure will need a well-financed messaging campaign to convince the electorate that this is in their best interest, because as of right now, it’s clear that they don’t.”

Poll Methodology

Pollsters conducted this survey of 961 likely general election voters Feb. 7-8, 2022.

It has a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Pollsters collected responses via SMS to an online survey and by phone.

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