Rejected Arkansas Cannabis Vote Initiative Goes to Supreme Court
The ballot initiative submitted by Responsible Growth Arkansas, a cannabis advocacy group, was recently rejected on August 3 by the Board of Election Commissioners for its name and title. On August 4, the group filed a lawsuit in the state Supreme Court challenging the decision.
As of July 29, Responsible Growth Arkansas has provided at least 90,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot (the group has provided more than necessary). However, once the commissioners reviewed the submission, they claimed that the title of the ballot did not fully explain the description of the amendment to voters and specifically stated that the current wording would change current dietary restrictions. of THC from Arkansas. The proposal in question, entitled “An amendment to permit the possession, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults, to permit the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities and to provide for the regulation of such facilities” , would allow possession of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults over 21, and allow state-licensed dispensaries to sell recreational cannabis, if adopted.
Commissioner J. Harmon Smith focused on THC limits for edibles. “If I’m a voter, I might be all for it, but I’d like to preserve that edible boundary,” Smith said.
Responsible Growth Arkansas attorney Steven Lancaster said that was an unreasonable request. “The kind of detail the board expected, or required in this case, would make our voting title thousands and thousands of words long,” Lancaster said. “It’s just not workable for a ballot.”
Following the rejection, the group filed a lawsuit to appeal the decision “to challenge that the State Board of Election Commissioners thwarts the will of the people and their right to pass laws on their own initiative.” “, says the filing, according to KNWA. “The Council has attacked this heart by its incorrect rejection of the title of the ballot.” The filing includes a complaint against Secretary of State and Chairman Commissioner John Thurston, who had certified that the initiative had received enough signatures to be put on the August 2 ballot.
The filing claims that Thurston is required to certify the popular name and title of the ballot if they “are not misleading.” “The popular name and title of the ballot is legally sufficient under the precedent of this Court, as it gives voters an unbiased summary of the amendment that provides a fair understanding of the issues presented and the scope and purpose significance of the proposed changes to the law,” the filing continues. “Nothing is omitted that would give voters serious cause for thought, and nothing in the popular name and title of the ballot is misleading in any way. The Board therefore erred in refusing certification. »
Ultimately, the lawsuit claims the dismissal was unconstitutional and seeks a preliminary injunction from the Supreme Court to include the ballot initiative, “because the Court is unlikely to rule on this action before the 25 August for certification of the amendment to appear on the November 2022 ballot.”
Just before the initiative was rejected by commissioners, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson voiced his opposition to the recreational cannabis initiative during a speech to the Arkansas Municipal Police Association. ‘Arkansas on August 3. marijuana use,” Hutchinson said. “I believe that marijuana is a harmful drug. It’s that simple. I turn back to Alaska. In the 1970s they decriminalized marijuana. Marijuana use has increased dramatically, especially among teenagers, and Alaska has reversed prices and re-criminalized marijuana.
Hutchinson claimed that cannabis is “harmful”. “Now they’re going to sell this as something that’s going to help law enforcement. Fifteen percent of marijuana sales tax revenue will go to a fund to support law enforcement stipends, 10 percent will go to UAMS in Little Rock, and 5 percent will go to drug courts,” continued Hutchinson. “And so, once again, they’re selling a harmful drug to the citizens of Arkansas based on promises that sound good. Now those promises might be a reality, but I think you have to be prepared for this debate.