This week, less than 60 days until the Nov. 8 General Election, suddenly Gov. Asa Hutchinson mused he "didn't like" the public proposal on recreational marijuana in Arkansas.
Admittedly, Hutchinson has never been a "fan" of even medical marijuana in Arkansas, but like all the other 135 members of the General Assembly, have certainly enjoyed spending the millions of tax dollars that RxPot has generated in our state.
And now, with a chance to join several other states across the nation -- and be the first Southern state to allow the state distribution and sale of recreational marijuana -- he and some other elected officials want to try to pump the brakes.
Most disappointing of all was Secretary of State John Thurston.
From his webpage, he says: "My proposal to you: My objective as an elected official is to do my job so well that my constituents can live their lives, raise kids, pursue their careers, enjoy life and never have to be concerned with the office I have been entrusted with."
But Mr. Secretary, this week, you decided to use your office to buttress the very bad decision that five non-elected officials made as a newly created Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners to try to halt this apparently very popular ballot imitative.
The Board of Election Commissioners tried to find fault with the way the signatures were collected; failing that, they decided to autopsy the ballot title and how the proposal was worded. Failing to find fault there, they began focusing on a THC limit in the proposal as a stretch to attempt to kill the ballot title.
So, the group that has collected the signatures, painstakingly examining the proposal from every legal angle, is set to go before the State Supreme Court for a final decision.
Already under newly passed guidelines, the proposal is on all the Nov. 8 General Election ballots, but the votes may or may not be counted, an outcome of the Arkansas Supreme Court's decision.
So, hang on, it may still make the ballot count.
But not before Secretary of State John Thurston declared the proposal as "insufficient," mainly because the State Board of Election Commissioners declined to certify the ballot title.
Certifying the ballot title was once a job the elected Secretary of State did before a proposal could get on the ballot. Thurston decided to get in lock-step with the Board of Election Commissioners and a late arriving Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
All of these elected and appointed officials, of course, ignored the results of a Talk Business & Politics–Hendrix College Poll that shows there is a large percentage of all Arkansans all across the age spectrum in favor of the recreational pot issue.
"Q. On November 8th, voters will be asked to consider one proposed constitutional amendment proposed by the people. Issue 4 would authorize the possession, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults in Arkansas sold by licensed adult use dispensaries and provide for the regulation of those facilities. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against Issue 4?"
Here are the raw results: 58.5% were For the issue; 29% were Against the issue and a very large 12.5% is still Undecided.
Back in February, a similar poll "showed support for adult use of recreational cannabis at 53.5%."
And now the issue is in the hands of the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Remember the justices that sit on the Arkansas Supreme Court are elected by the same voters who will be voting on the recreational pot issue on Nov. 8.
Perhaps Roby Brock, the editor of Talk Business & Politics, said it the best:
"We see support for the measure across a variety of demographics, suggesting that opponents will have a tough time peeling off votes to defeat the proposal. Should it be kicked off the ballot this cycle, our polling suggests it may just be a matter of when, not if, that it becomes legal in Arkansas."
If not now, voters should ask, when?
-- Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.