Arkansas voters reject recreational marijuana, more liberal proposal could emerge in 2024

A cultivator trims the leaves of a cannabis plant at a growing facility. (Adobe)

Voters in Arkansas have rejected a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana, also known as Issue 4.

Unofficial results showed that 56% of voters were against the amendment in Tuesday’s general election.

It was one of two states, including North Dakota, where marijuana’s recreational use failed. A similar measure in South Dakota appears to have also failed.

Voters in Maryland and Missouri, however, approved recreational marijuana, but both of those measures included provisions expunging past convictions. The defeated proposals in Arkansas and North Dakota would not have provided a pathway for expungements.

All five states that voted on recreational proposals on Tuesday already have legal medical marijuana, including Arkansas, which was the first state in the Bible Belt region to pass medical marijuana.

Opposition in Arkansas came from both conservatives and cannabis advocates who were against the strictness of the proposed law, which would have been the tightest in the U.S. with its hard limit on licenses, no expungements of past convictions, and no allowance for growing the plants at home.

A more liberal recreational marijuana proposal could emerge in the next two years. A Little Rock attorney who drafted Arkansas’ 2016 medical marijuana amendment has said he will introduce a proposal in 2024 that includes expungement provisions and allows home growing.