MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Arkansas’ recreational marijuana measure is getting support from some district attorneys across the river in Tennessee.
Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy organized a press conference in Memphis on Monday, urging voters in Arkansas to vote yes Tuesday on Amendment 4. The ballot measure would allow adults to possess marijuana for recreational use in the Natural State.
“I think we all know the facts. Marijuana is really no more dangerous than alcohol,” Mulroy said. “I think it’s time that Arkansas join the 19 other states that have legalized recreational marijuana.”
District Attorney Frederick Agee, the prosecutor for several counties in West Tennessee, said that marijuana prohibition laws have failed, and have unfairly targeted African Americans.
“We have spent billions and billions over the years trying to defeat a plant. It’s not going to happen,” Agee said. “People’s lives have been ruinied because of marijuana prohibition. I want to see violent crimes prioritized. That’s where our resources should go.”
But why would Tennessee prosecutors care about an Arkansas referendum?
One reason is the high volume of traffic that flows across the bridges between the states from Arkansas to Memphis and West Tennessee, Mulroy said.
“People are going back and forth between Memphis and West Memphis all the time,” Mulroy said.
Medical marijuana patients in Tennessee could get needed drugs across the river. But the biggest reason, he said, was that law enforcement in both states needs to put more priority on combating violent crimes.
“Crime is a problem on both sides of the river,” Mulroy said. “We really need to refocus on violent crime, the things that really matter, and stop wasting our time on things that don’t matter, like marijuana enforcement.”
Mulroy said while his office will enforce the law, marijuana prosecution will be de-prioritized so that attorneys can put more emphasis on prosecuting violent crimes.
Lance Huey, a former sheriff who is now involved in the cannabis industry and is vice chairman of the committee that put Amendment 4 on the Arkansas ballot, said Arkansas will have strict regulations that will keep unsafe and sometimes deadly “street weed” away from the public.
While Amendment 4 has gained some celebrity endorsements recently, it’s unclear how voters will react when they go to the polls Tuesday.
A recent poll by the University of Arkansas found support dwindling for recreational marijuana among Arkansas voters. About 60% of voters said they opposed the measure.
You can find results for this and other elections in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi on WREG.com Tuesday after polls close.