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Fingers Crossed for a Fair Shot (Editorial)

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If poll numbers are to be believed, Arkansas may be on the cusp of a new billion-dollar industry. 

We’re referring, of course, to the business of recreational marijuana.

On Sept. 15, a Talk Business & Politics/Hendrix College survey showed that 58.5% of 835 likely Arkansas voters would vote for Issue 4, the proposal that would legalize recreational cannabis. 

Just 29% said they were against the measure, and 12.5% were undecided. (The poll, taken on Sept. 13, has a margin of error of +/-3.8%.)

Arkansas’ existing medical marijuana industry is excited about the prospect of legalization, having bankrolled the voter initiative. 

As Kyle Massey reports, Issue 4 would let the state’s eight current medicinal cannabis cultivators and 40 licensed dispensaries supply most of the lucrative new market.

And what a market it could be. 

Massey notes that about 80,000 Arkansans with medicinal marijuana cards spent $265 million at dispensaries in 2021. The market for recreational use is expected to be at least three times as large.

The amendment would also let in new players, issuing 40 additional dispensary licenses for recreational sales via lottery. 

That would — fingers crossed — allow the state to avoid the charges of politics and bribery that have dogged the process of licensing the medicinal business after voters legalized that industry in 2016.

Opponents of recreational marijuana are lining up ahead of next month’s vote, but something about this feels inevitable. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia already have legal cannabis; Arkansas may well be next.

We hold out hope, however foolish it might seem, that if Arkansas voters do decide to “legalize it,” the rollout will be smoother and more transparent than for medical marijuana, and that industry newcomers will have their fair shot at reaping the rewards.

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