The people of Arkansas voted against legalizing recreational marijuana use. This was a significant and expected result, as this has been an issue of debate in the state since it legalized medical marijuana in 2016. The initiative intended to “authorize the possession, personal use and conception of cannabis by adults, to allow the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities, and to provide for regulating those facilities” statewide.
One crucial factor in the voting results may have been the influence of Christianity and Biblical teachings amongst many voters within the state. The AFCAC (Arkansas Faith and Values Coalition) was one such organization that opposed recreational marijuana legalization for religious reasons. AFCAC argued that marijuana use is immoral according to Christian doctrine and should not be legalized for public consumption. AFCAC had strong connections to many churches throughout Arkansas, which meant that its message reached far more people than it usually would have.
In a section titled "Higher purpose than getting high," they lay out their first point: “The whole point of consuming ‘recreational’ marijuana is to get high,” the brief reads. “The Bible has numerous warnings against drunkenness. Being filled with the Spirit leads to more self-control, but using marijuana leads to less self-control and a loss of inhibitions.”
The AFCAC argued that Bible scripture expressly forbids any intoxication from drugs or alcohol, including marijuana use. They also cited verses from 1 Corinthians 6:19, where Paul exhorts us to “glorify God in our bodies” as evidence against recreational marijuana use. In another section, they argue that “Christ-followers are commanded to stay awake - to be alert to the privilege and responsibility of living out their citizenship of the gospel, always, everywhere, and before everyone.
Marijuana clouds our ability to perceive the world clearly and dulls our sense of urgency about what disciples of Christ should be doing. It clouds people’s senses, making it more difficult to see their need for Christ.” That marijuana consumption violates the Bible’s golden rule: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. “The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves,” the brief says. “Nothing is loving about standing by and looking the other way in silence while your neighbor destroys his or her life and those around them.”
The strategy worked; the Arkansas initiative only received 44% of the vote this past fall. While AFCAC's stance on this issue may not have won over every voter in Arkansas, its message certainly resonated with enough people to help defeat the legalization effort. Ultimately, the AFCAC's arguments against legalization were clear and powerful enough to sway many voters away from supporting recreational marijuana use. Though other factors contributed to its failure at the ballot box, AFCAC's message and Biblical teachings likely played a crucial role in convincing many Arkansans to oppose legalizing recreational marijuana.