A man offers marijuana brownie during a demonstration in front of Mexican Senate building in Mexico City on September 14, 2016. Dozens of young people marched through different streets of the city to demand the approval of the use of marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes. (Yuri Cortez, AFP/Getty Images)

How Arkansas became the first Bible Belt state to legalize medical marijuana

Leading into the 2016 Election Night, half of the nation had medical marijuana laws in place.

After Tuesday, among the four states to join those ranks was Arkansas, the first in the Bible Belt to adopt a medical marijuana law.

“Honestly, it’s surprising, but maybe not as surprising as you’d think,” says Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group and lobbyist. “When you look at polls around medical marijuana, it now polls close to 90 percent. This is almost as close to a consensus issue as we get these days. And you don’t get to 90 percent without some Bible Belters.”

The idea of medical marijuana and offering another avenue of treatment for people facing various ailments is no longer controversial in the eyes of many Americans, especially in light of the opioid epidemic, West says.

“They see that the medicines that are being prescribed right now are often much more dangerous and much more damaging than medical marijuana would be,” she says. “So why not have that as an option that people could use as an alternative?”

West and Brian Vicente, a partner at cannabis law firm Vicente Sederberg, join Cannabist editor-in-chief Ricardo Baca on The Cannabist Show to discuss the outcomes of the big election night for the marijuana industry.

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