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Voters Really Like the Local Option

Most states give local municipalities some way to either ban or allow alcohol sales. While the overwhelming majority of localities choose to allow alcohol sales, there are still a significant number of dry counties throughout the country. Tuesday’s election proved that this level of local control over alcohol remains really popular with the electorate.

On the ballot in Arkansas was Issue 4, the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Initiative, which would have gotten rid of the local option and made the entire state wet. It was defeated overwhelmingly with 57 percent of people voting against it.

Even though the structure of the local option rules in Arkansas are very poorly designed, with an incredibly high signature requirement of 38 percent of registered voters to have the issue placed on the local ballot, the people of Arkansas made it clear they would rather have a bad local option than no local option at all.

While most people in the marijuana reform movement were obviously focused on the big victories in Washington D.C., Oregon, and Alaska, they should take a moment to reflect on the results from this initiative in Arkansas as well.

As the movement begins planning ballot measures to “regulate marijuana like alcohol” in other states they will need to decide whether or not to include a local option in the initiative, and if so, how to design them. The successful legalization ballot measures in both Alaska and Oregon contained local option provisions; but of the two, I consider Oregon to have the better design. It still gives localities a legitimate choice to opt-out, but is structured to favor more localities allowing marijuana business.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at