Poll: Arkansas voters split on medical marijuana proposals

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 506 views 

Arkansas voters have split attitudes on two medical marijuana proposals with few undecideds, according to the latest Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey.

The poll, conducted among 831 likely Arkansas voters on September 15-17, 2016, shows one medical marijuana proposal with a plurality of support, while a second ballot issue has a small majority against it. The survey has a margin of error of 3.4%.

Voters were asked:

Q: The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment would amend the Arkansas constitution to legalize physician-certified medical marijuana in Arkansas. The amendment would limit the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state to 40 and would give the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division inspection authority over the dispensaries. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against this proposal?

49% For
43% Against
8% Don’t Know

Q: The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is an initiated act that would legalize physician-certified medical marijuana in Arkansas. While a number of state regulated cannabis care centers would be allowed, this proposal would allow individuals with an approved “hardship certificate” who live more than 20 miles from a care center to grow up to 10 cannabis plants. If the election were held today, would you vote for or against this proposal?

36% For
53% Against
11% Don’t Know

“Arkansas voters do appear to distinguish between the two medical marijuana proposals, according to our survey,” said TB&P’s Roby Brock. “With legal challenges remaining, high-profile opposition, and the possibility of national groups spending money in support of the issue, these proposals may be the most contested on the November ballot.”

Previous survey results were released earlier this week in the Presidential and Senate races, and more polling will be released on Monday and Tuesday related to several additional ballot proposals.

Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:

Since 2012, Arkansas voters have been grappling with whether they want to the state to become the first in the South to allow medical marijuana. That year, voters came very close to taking that step with an initiated act losing by only a 51% to 49% margin. The proponents of that 2012 initiative parted ways in the aftermath of its loss. One group is emphatic that the accessibility to medical marijuana requires that those living miles away from a dispensary be allowed to grow a small number of plants. This year, they have successfully gathered signatures to place the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act on the Arkansas ballot.

Their former allies have put forward a constitutional amendment — the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment — that limits the number of maladies that can be the basis for accessing medical marijuana, restricts the number of dispensaries, and avoids the “grow your own” provision. Although court challenges to each remain, both remain on the ballot at present. Our survey results indicate that Arkansas voters have thought about the topic a great deal. The percentage of Arkansans who lack an opinion on either measure is small compared to any other ballot measure we examined.

Moreover, the deviation in results — with a plurality of voters supporting the amendment and a slight majority opposing the initiative — shows that Arkansas voters are conscious of the differences between them. While most Arkansans are either voting for both measures or against both, a full quarter of those opposing the initiative say they will vote for the amendment (and about 8% of those supporting the initiative oppose the amendment).

Assuming both measures are on the ballot, the key questions are whether the supporters of the two measures attack one other in the weeks ahead (joining the full-throated opposition to either measure coming from the state Chamber of Commerce, the Hutchinson administration, and health care leaders) and whether the apparent knowledge of the differences between the two measures will overcome voter confusion that often shows itself on ballot measures on election day. Demographically, age is a key force in shaping levels of support for both measures with support highest among younger voters and lowest among those over 65. African-Americans and Democrats are also solidly behind the amendment (64% and 66%, respectively) and also show higher rates of support for the initiated act (with 56% and 49% support). Geographically, Third District residents are more supportive than voters elsewhere in the state on both measures.

The only real deviation across the measures is that women are decidedly more supportive than men of the amendment and men are, conversely, slightly more supportive than women of the initiative. Women support the amendment 51-39% and men oppose the amendment 49-47%. On the initiative, women oppose it 50-35% and men oppose it 57-36.5%. While the state Supreme Court will decide whether the campaigns on either or both of the measures proceeds, it appears like another close call awaits (at least on the amendment) four years after Arkansans’ last consideration of the issue.

You can view more of Barth’s analysis in the video below.

This survey was conducted on September 15-17, 2016. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-3.4%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 831 Arkansas likely voters statewide.

All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.

For interviews, contact Talk Business & Politics Roby Brock by email at [email protected] or Dr. Jay Barth by email at [email protected]