We suppose the most concise argument against Issue 4 on next month's ballot--the one legalizing dope--came years ago from a former police chief of Little Rock, namely one Kenton Buckner.
The issue back then was medical marijuana, which he called a Trojan horse in the war to legalize weed. And he was right. Because here we are today, on the brink of legalizing marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas, of all places.
It's been several years since the issue was legalizing marijuana "only for medical use," but here is what then-Chief Buckner said of the efforts back then: "Think of all the problems that we have in our city and put it through your intelligent mind and ask yourself: Will marijuana fix that?"
Will marijuana fix that?
That should be put on a billboard somewhere.
As most voters in Arkansas know by now, Issue 4 would allow licensed cultivators to grow and sell marijuana to dispensaries, and allow those 21 and older to buy the stuff. And enshrine legalized marijuana into the state constitution.
There seems to be an intramural marijuana-industry controversy about how many dispensaries there would be, and who could own them. But of all those who argue back and forth on that issue, none of them answer the basic question: Will marijuana fix what's broken in our state?
Many voters might not know other specifics of the issue on the ballot. For example, that this proposed law would remove a cap on THC in marijuana-infused drinks and food products (!) and that the General Assembly couldn't make amendments or changes to state marijuana law--that is, any changes in the law would require another election.
And here is a point from an opponent, one that we never thought of before last week. Thanks to the Public Policy Center's website for including it in its analysis:
"Every drug dog within the State of Arkansas would have to be de-certified and replaced with one that does not include marijuana as a detectable substance. That alone would open the door for a mass influx of other controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, among others, into the state, if the amendment is enacted, and before the State can fund and train a whole new set of dogs for every location where a drug dog is currently in use in the State of Arkansas."
Still, we can't get around the simple question: Will marijuana fix that?
The state's largest city is going through something of a crime wave, or at least a spike in shootings and murders. Will marijuana fix that? Or add to the problem(s) as weed becomes easier to get and share?
In most grades in Arkansas, as per the statewide required Aspire test, not even 50 percent of our kids are reading on their grade levels. In some grades, it doesn't get to 40 percent. Will marijuana fix that? Or make things worse? And don't give us "21 means 21." The kids always get into the stash.
The paper said just this last week that the ACT college exam scores fell to an average of 18.8 in 2022. Will legalizing marijuana fix that?
Will more dope on the streets improve discipline in our children? Will legalized marijuana settle gang issues? Will legal weed improve the job chances for those who have challenges getting hired?
Will marijuana fix that?
For the record, that's a rhetorical question.
A wise editorial editor once advised: Don't spend all your time arguing the opposition's weakest arguments. Take on their strongest points, too.
So, once again, we go to the indispensable Public Policy Center, which provides supporter views among its other analysis. And here is what some supporters of Issue 4 are saying:
"People want this."
We shall see. Doubtless some people want this. Others might be afraid of what legalizing this drug will do to the community.
"It'll be regulated."
So is the lottery. That doesn't mean it's an overall good for the state.
"These marijuana stores--dispensaries--aren't going to be on every corner."
Why not? Legal is legal. Is there such thing as being a little bit pregnant? And if the plant is legal, then why not allow it in home gardens, and allow folks to grow it right next to their tomato plants? Something tells us (namely experience) that this is the next step.
"The money that comes in by taxing marijuana will help the state's finances."
At what cost elsewhere?
"This will kill the black market."
We don't think so. Weed on the streets isn't taxed. So it'll cost less. Which might end up being a prime incentive when somebody thinks about where to buy the stuff.
Finally, this quote, taken from the Public Policy Center's website from another Issue 4 supporter: "This is something that is coming our way. We can either be a part of it, or we're going to lose out to some of our neighboring states in jobs and tax revenue for the state."
And if we don't get into it, somebody else will. Maybe one of the Five Families, maybe all of them, etc. Wasn't that a comment from Tom Hagen in The Godfather? That Family didn't seem happy in the end.
But none of these pro-Issue 4 arguments answer the basic question: Will marijuana fix what's wrong in Arkansas?
If your answer is no, then please vote that way on Nov. 8.