Arkansas voters overwhelmingly approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana use Wednesday, casting the first statewide ballot in more than a decade.
The measure, which passed by a 62-19 margin, passed with the support of Democrats in both chambers of the state’s Legislature.
It now goes to the governor’s desk for his signature.
“The time has come to legalize recreational marijuana for all Arkansans,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a statement.
“The people of Arkansas will not wait for the federal government to take its course and act.
I am determined to get the word out that Arkansan citizens will not be punished for their actions.
The vote also cleared the way for Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge to begin legal proceedings on the issue of marijuana legalization in the state.
She said the office will not seek to intervene in the court case.
The law, approved by voters in 2012, allows adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use and allows them to grow up to six plants for personal or household use.
Supporters of the law argue that the legalization will bring thousands of jobs and economic development to the state and reduce drug abuse and related crime.
The campaign against recreational marijuana legalization is being waged in part by the Drug Policy Alliance, which has spent $40 million on ads in Arkansas.
The Drug Policy Institute has said the ballot measure is a step in the right direction but has argued that it does not go far enough to address the needs of Arkansas’s youth and people with substance abuse problems.”
This ballot initiative fails to address this serious and growing public health issue and fails to adequately address the drug epidemic, particularly among young people,” the Drug Action Coalition said in an August statement.
The group has argued the initiative would leave some recreational marijuana users and users with medical marijuana licenses who cannot get the medication from an approved treatment facility.
The organization also argues that the measure does not address the need for an effective and comprehensive approach to treatment.
Last year, Arkansas voters passed a constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana.
It was approved by a slim majority in both houses of the Legislature, but has not been fully implemented.
A new law is scheduled to take effect in January, and voters will be asked to vote on the measure again in 2018.