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Arkansas Group Says Legalization Measure Exceeds Requirements

Is Responsible Growth Arkansas’ marijuana legalization ballot title misleading? The group says no but the state says yes

Magnolia Reporter

A group wanting to legalize adult-use marijuana argues it doesn’t just meet standards on informing voters — it exceeds them. Responsible Growth Arkansas made the claim in a recently filed Arkansas Supreme Court reply. The measure exceeds the requirements, according to Responsible Growth Arkansas.

The group responded Friday to Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s brief. The AG’s brief supported a decision by the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners to keep the referendum off November’s ballot. The commission’s decision was because the ballot title’s didn’t limit edible THC levels, reports the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

Responsible Growth Arkansas last month requested that the court put the referendum back on the November ballot. The court issued a preliminary injunction to keep it on the ballot until it makes its final ruling.

Will The People’s Votes Count?

This gives rise to the possible scenario of a measure being present on the ballot, but the votes not counting.

Responsible Growth Arkansas says it has collected more than 192,000 signatures from registered voters who support legalization. Arkansas law requires about 90,000 valid signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

The referendum would amend Arkansas Amendment 98, passed by voters back in 2016. That ballot initiative legalized medical Cannabis in the Natural State.

State Claims Ballot Title Is Misleading

A brief filed by the state late last month claims Responsible Growth Arkansas’ ballot title is misleading.

“As determined by the Board, the Ballot Title here is misleading because it fails to inform voters that it will repeal the 10 milligram limit of THC per portion for edibles,” the attorney general’s office announced.

The state’s argument also claims the title is insufficient because it could supposedly lead a voter to believe the amendment would require child-proof packaging. According to the state, it would actually replace existing, more “stringent” requirements.

“The Ballot Title Exceeds What The Court Has Previously Required”

Responsible Growth’s response states the law does not require the summarization of present law on a ballot.

“The Court’s precedent on referenda ballot titles recognizes that voters know existing law,” the response states. The group said it has outlined where the amendments would be made in its title.

“The ballot title exceeds what the Court has previously required by telling voters the specific provisions of Amendment 98 that will be amended, including the specific change at issue here,” the group’s reply states.

Two Groups Oppose The Measure

Two groups opposed to the measure, Save Arkansas from Epidemic and Safe and Secure Communities, also filed briefs as intervenors in the case last month.

Both groups said the referendum would mislead voters about industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is legal in Arkansas, but the ballot issue’s definition of cannabis includes hemp. The groups argued the question asking voters if they want to legalize recreational cannabis would mislead them into believing industrial hemp is not already legal in Arkansas.

“Because the proposal’s real definition of cannabis is not limited to what most Arkansas voters think of as marijuana but also covers industrial hemp, equating cannabis (as defined in the amendment) with marijuana is misleading,” said Brett D. Watson, an attorney representing Safe and Secure Communities.

Responsible Growth argues that case law shows ballot titles don’t need to interpret every possible consequence of a measure to the voter.

“This Court has never required a ballot title to anticipate legal interpretations and consequences of the measure,” the reply says.

Read Responsible Growth Arkansas’ reply to state Supreme Court

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