As Early Voting Begins, Arkansas Medical Marijuana Measure in Deep Hole

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If Arkansas is going to join the list of medical cannabis states this year, its legalization measure will have to mount an epic comeback.

A new poll released this week shows the measure trailing badly, with just 38% of likely voters saying they support legalization and 54% planning to vote against the initiative. Only 8% remain undecided, according to the survey, meaning that the initiative would still fail even if all those voters backed legalization.

Those are some daunting percentages. Of course, polls can be off, and there’s still two weeks to go until election day. But early voting began in Arkansas on Monday, so many residents are already casting their ballots. And the gap between support and opposition is huge at this point, meaning the chances that the measure (called Issue 5) will pass are very slim.

It’s a surprising turnaround: Just a few months ago, polls painted an entirely different picture, with 47% supporting it vs. 46% opposing it.

Legalization in Arkansas would be a major coup for MMJ advocates, opening up the South to medical marijuana. Supporters knew they were in for an uphill battle, though, given overall attitudes about cannabis in general in that area of the country. So even if the measure fails, it doesn’t represent a huge loss for the industry by any stretch of the imagination.

The fact that legalization appeared on the ballot is still a tangible step forward for medical marijuana efforts. Realistically, it will likely take many efforts to get medical cannabis legalization approved in the South. It’s also promising that several notable names, including State Rep. Kathy Webb and celebrity Montel Williams, came out in support of the measure.

MMJ advocates might have something else to celebrate on election night, anyway. While the Arkansas measure is on the ropes, a medical marijuana bill in Massachusetts – the only other US state with a legalization measure on the ballot – could win by a landslide.