The state of Arkansas today begins accepting applications for marijuana licenses, both to grow it and sell it commercially. It becomes the first so-called Bible Belt to do so, and the 29th state nationally to have a state-regulated marijuana cultivation and retail industry.
Of course, it’s still a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act and illegal under federal law.
On the eve of this Independence Day weekend, Arkansas Public Media offers you this interview of John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of Marijuana: A Short History, by managing editor Bobby Ampezzan.
It takes a look back at the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana, through its criminalization beginning in the 1930s, Richard Nixon's War on Drugs, and finally, the sea-change in public opinion that began developing about the time California first legalized a medical marijuana program in 1996.
Today, Hudak says, approval of recreational or so-called adult use of marijuana is at roughly 60 percent, according to polls, but nationwide approval of cannabis for therapeutic (medical) purposes is better than 80 percent.
"There are within religious groups" varying ranges of acceptance depending on age, Hudak says. "At least it’s true for recreational marijuana. It is less true for medical marijuana. For medical marijuana, there is significantly higher support even among these [older] religious people for medical compared to recreational because they are actually seeing it as a medicine, and they’re not seeing it as much as a drug anymore."
This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.