A group filed another amendment Thursday morning to put adult-use Cannabis legalization on the 2022 ballot in Arkansas, reports KATV.
Arkansans for Marijuana Reform Director Melissa Fults submitted the proposal which would allow adults who are 21 and older to possess Cannabis for recreational use. It would also allow adults to cultivate up to six marijuana seedlings and have six mature plants. Those plants would have to be registered through the state, according to the proposal.
The amendment also would allow people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses to petition courts for relief. This relief includes release from incarceration and expungement of their conviction.
If the amendment is approved, Arkansas lawmakers would be able to impose a tax on recreational marijuana. But they wouldn’t be able to tax Arkansas’ already-existing medical marijuana sales.
One Marijuana Dispensary Per 15,000 Arkansas Residents
The legalization amendment allows for a number of cannabis businesses proportional to the state’s population, reports Arkansas Online.
The Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment will be one of at least three adult-use cannabis proposals vying for the 2022 ballot, according to Arkansas Online.
The measure would legalize Cannabis possession for adults and allow for at least one dispensary license per 15,000 Arkansas residents. It would also limit the number of cultivation facility licenses to one per 300,000 residents.
The amendment would as well allow anyone with certain felony or misdemeanor convictions related to marijuana possession to ask the courts for relief from the conviction.
Half The Revenue Would Go To Pre-K And After-School Programs
The amendment also uses excess revenue from marijuana sales to help different programs in the state.
Half of the revenue would go to fund and operate public Pre-K and after-school programs. Forty percent would go to operations at the UAMS cancer institute and research center, and 10 percent would go to the state’s general fund.
The nonprofit group Arkansas True Grass also filed their own amendment in September to put recreational marijuana on the ballot. The group needs 89,101 signatures to make the ballot. The deadline to gather signatures is in June 2022.
‘Fair For The Consumer, Fair For The Industry, Fair For The State’
Melissa Fults’ 2016 medical cannabis measure was tossed off the ballot. Now she’s sponsoring the new proposed amendment. Fults said she hadn’t initially planned to file an amendment but saw problems with the other two proposals.
“I think it’s fair for the consumer, I think it’s fair for the industry, and I think it’s fair for the state,” she said.
Arkansas True Grass sponsors the proposed Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022. Filed in May 2020, it would legalize recreational marijuana for people 21 and older without putting a cap on the number of cannabis businesses.
Another effort, Responsible Growth Arkansas, filed a statement of organization with the Arkansas Ethics Commission last month but hasn’t yet filed a proposed amendment with the secretary of state’s office.
Cults Critiques Other Legalization Proposals
Fults said Arkansas True Grass’ proposal would be “like the Wild West” and not gain the support of voters.
She said Responsible Growth, based on what she had heard, would limit the industry to a smaller number of businesses and make it more exclusive. “If it can’t grow with the state, it’ll be stifled and never go anywhere,” she said. “I think that’s the only fair way to do it.”
Fults said the Arkansas NORML chapter hasn’t endorsed her measure; that would require approval from national organization. But she said the majority of the board members support it.
89,151 Signatures Required
To qualify to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a group must collect at least 89,151 signatures of registered voters, or 10% of the votes cast for governor in the 2018 general election.
A new state law, Act 951 of 2021, requires canvassers collecting signatures for ballot initiatives to be Arkansas residents. It also prohibits paying canvassers on a per-signature basis.
Fults said she believes the law is unconstitutional. But even if it isn’t overturned, supporters of the amendment will figure out a way to gather signatures. She noted previous efforts have qualified for the ballot with very few paid canvassers.
“If somebody wants to bring a lawsuit against it, I will be right there with them,” she said.
Arkansas True Grass: ‘Disappointed’
Jesse Raphael, a spokesman for Arkansas True Grass, said he was disappointed because many provisions of Fults’ amendment are similar to theirs. According to Raphael, multiple measures could confuse voters or dilute the voter pool.
He said their amendment is similar to recreational measures in Oklahoma and Colorado in allowing an unlimited number of businesses. Raphael disagreed with provisions in Fults’ amendment regarding inspection of home grows and having to ask the court for expungement or release for marijuana-related offenses. He feels those expungements should occur automatically upon legalization.
The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022 would automatically release from incarceration or expunge the records of people whose only conviction was for a Cannabis-related offense.
“We think ours is better for the state of Arkansas,” Raphael said. “If people want everything on the ballot, that’s fine. But we’re going to keep campaigning for our petition regardless of how many other petitions present themselves.”
‘Something We Can Coalesce Around’
Eddie Armstrong, a former Arkansas House Democratic leader, is the chairman of Responsible Growth Arkansas. He is a founder of Cannabis Capital Corp., a Chicago-based consulting group for the marijuana industry. He’s also managing director at Maple and Orange LLC, an Arkansas-based lobbying and consulting firm.
Armstrong said Thursday that he could not give more details about the group’s forthcoming amendment because of a legal review. But he said the measure would be filed in the next few weeks.
He said the effort would “focus on a responsible approach and a well-reasoned approach.” He added, in response to criticism, that there was no intent to be exclusive.
He said he didn’t take Fults’ filing an amendment as a slight. In fact, Armstrong said, it demonstrates the state has a growing consensus of support for legalizing adult-use cannabis in a “responsible and regulated way.”
“That’s something we can coalesce around,” he said.
And Then There Are The Whack-Job Opponents…
But legalizing recreational marijuana isn’t without opponents in Arkansas. Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber didn’t have a stance on the proposals. But he said it would likely oppose adult-use marijuana.
Jerry Cox, director of the Family Council Action Committee, couldn’t do much better than spout the same old gobbledegook of prohibitionists. Cox said the group opposes all Cannabis amendments because of “a growing body of scientific evidence” supposedly showing weed can be harmful and addictive to the user. The committee, which is the political arm of the conservative Arkansas Family Council, plans to form a ballot question committee to raise funds to oppose recreational marijuana measures, Cox said.
Arkansas voters approved Amendment 98, the constitutional change setting up the state’s medical marijuana program, in 2016.