If a local ballot initiative passes in Eureka Springs this November, people can smoke the green, green grass of home and not be in the jailhouse now.
To the surprise of pot enthusiasts statewide, local leaders of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have been able to gather enough signatures in this Bible Belt, small tourist economy based town, to put on the election ballot a proposed change in the catagory for minor marijuana offences.
Under current law, first time offenders caught with 1 ounce or less of marijuana in Arkansas can get up to 1 year in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. If this initiative passes, pot possession of 1 ounce or less will be akin to a minor traffic violation, punishable by community service or drug counseling.
But even the pro-pot people are not lighting up in celebration yet. Many in Eureka Springs say they are unhappy about their town being in the vanguard of marijuana leniency while Arkansas is battling a major methamphetamine problem. The local police say which ever way the voters go won't matter because state laws governing marijuana possession trump local ordinances. The state of Arkansas has nothing on statewide ballots to change marijuana laws.
"A lot of people here don't see anything wrong with marijuana, but it's against the law to posses it in Arkansas. Until they change the state law, we're going to uphold it," Sgt. Shelley Summers of the Eureka Springs Police Department told the L A Times.
Kieth Strop, who founded NORML in 1970 told the newspaper,"although police can ignore the will of the people, I'm not sure they will want to."
Stroup also said, "If the initiative passes, a majority of residents will be saying that law enforcement resources should be spent on more serious crime. If the mayor and other city leaders don't understand that, the town can vote in people who do."
Eureka Springs has a population of 2,278. Located in a remote hollow in the northwest Arkansas hills the town has a mixture of traditional conservative Christians and aging hippies.