UPDATE: Turnout for Cannabis Issues Doubtful

by Kirsten May
Courtesy of A-State Department of Media

JONESBORO — Arkansas voters will see five issues on their ballot this year, including two different proposals about medical marijuana. ASU TV’s Kirsten May reports on differences in the proposals and how they might affect the state election.

Issue 6 is the Medical Marijuana Amendment. Issue 7 is the Medical Cannabis Act. They would both make marijuana legal for medicinal purposes, but political science professor William McClean said there are important differences between the two.

“Issue 6 I think probably has the better chance of passing than Issue 7. (Issue 6 is) a little more restrictive,” he said.

The Medical Marijuana Amendment allows about 20 medical conditions to be treated with cannabis, whereas Issue 7 covers nearly 60 conditions. It would also be easier to add more diagnoses to that list on Issue 7.

“You can amend an act without going back to the voters, so without amending the Constitution again,” McClean said.

There is also a provision in Issue 7 to let anyone living further than 20 miles from a dispensary to grow their own marijuana.

“People become kind of wary about the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ syndrome, I don’t want my next-door neighbor growing marijuana around my children,” he said.

This is not the first time medical marijuana has been on the ballot. Arkansans nearly passed a similar proposal four years ago.

“That was a surprising outcome as a political scientist given the conservative nature of the state, that it came as close to passing as it did,” McClean said.

Craighead County Clerk Kade Holliday thinks more people know about the cannabis proposals on the ballot this time around.

“There’s a lot of debate about, you know, the two different ones, all the differences between them. They’re definitely the most talked about,” he said.

But Holliday and McClean both agree the people most likely to vote for the proposals — young people and college students — aren’t as likely to go cast a ballot.

“We had right at 6,270 people registered in that (18-24) demographic. Now of that demographic, only about 38 percent of that demographic turn out to vote,” Holliday said.

“I think it has a low chance of passing,” McClean said. “Most of the polls show about 80 percent of Arkansans are in favor of some form of medical marijuana. However, it’s probably going to be a low turnout election. Young voters are not very excited about either presidential candidate.”

Both men say what’s important is letting your voice be heard, whichever way you vote for these issues.

McClean said if both pass, the Constitution states the issue with the most votes will take effect. (UPDATE: The Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified Issue 7 from the ballot on Oct. 27, three days after early voting started.)