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Arkansas Reform Campaign: A Vote for Legalization Is a Vote ‘to Support Our Police’

The organizers behind a marijuana legalization ballot proposal in Arkansas released a campaign ad stating that a vote for the measure is a “vote to support our police.”

The state Supreme Court is currently deciding whether the initiative, spearheaded by Responsible Growth Arkansas, will qualify for November’s ballot after the state Board of Election Commissioners voted against it on the basis that the measure’s title and summary is misleading. This led Responsible Growth Arkansas to file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court, which ordered the secretary of state to verify the petitioners had gathered enough valid signatures to qualify.

The marijuana legalization advocates haven’t stopped campaigning though. And their latest campaign ad stresses how the proposal would provide significant funding to Arkansas law enforcement.

“We all know that funding and supporting the police is important,” the narrator says.

“Our brave men and women in law enforcement deserve our support. You can vote to support our law enforcement by voting for Issue 4 this election. Issue 4 will safely legalize the sale of cannabis to adults 21 and older, and creates revenue that goes to more funding for local police departments, more funding for protecting our communities, more funding for safer streets.”

“A vote for Issue 4 is a vote to support our police,” the ad concludes.

Allocating marijuana sales tax revenues to law enforcement is common among states that have legalized cannabis. Few campaign ads have made support for law enforcement such a fundamental part of cannabis reform efforts though.

This has raised a few eyebrows among marijuana reform advocates but it could prove to be an effective strategy in a conservative state like Arkansas.

One of the organizers of Responsible Growth Arkansas is Lance Huey, a former Grant County Sheriff and State Police Trooper. He said, via press release, that he supports the proposal as “one of the questions that everybody always asks, or statements that people make to me, [is] I just wish they would legalize it and tax it and use the money for the common good.”

Should the Supreme Court give the proposal the green light and Arkansas voters come out in support of it, 15 percent of recreational cannabis sales tax revenues would be allocated to law enforcement. Huey goes on to state that this funding would be crucial for Arkansas law enforcement at a time when police departments are struggling to retain officers.

“To have something here that is not just one time funding—this is dedicated, yearly funding to help the bigger departments, the smaller departments—it helps everyone,” he said.

The campaign ad may also be a response to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) recent instruction to police officers to “stand firm” against the legalization proposal, warning them that Responsible Growth Arkansas is “going to sell this as something that’s going to help law enforcement.”

Separately, an attorney and an Arkansas police chief have teamed up to form a political committee to oppose the attempt at reforming Arkansas’ marijuana laws. Alongside the national prohibitionist organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana and another group, Safe and Secure Communities, the new political committee – Save Arkansas from Epidemic – will submit a brief to the Supreme Court outlining their opposition to the legalization proposal.

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