Ballots for the Nov. 8 midterm election in Arkansas must include adult-use marijuana legalization, the state Supreme Court ordered. The Arkansas high court’s Thursday ruling overturns a decision by the state Board of Election Commissioners, reports the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The 5-2 court ruling avoids the unhappy possibility of legalization appearing on the ballot, but the votes not counting. The bill had been provisionally added to printed ballots heading out to voting precincts around the state, reports WREG. The secretary of state’s office had earlier verified the petition to get the measure on the ballot had gathered enough signatures.
The election board then declined to certify the ballot title and popular name by advocacy group Responsible Growth Arkansas, reports Marijuana Business Daily. Board members claimed they did so on the basis that it didn’t include THC limits on edibles.
Then, citing the election board’s decision, Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston piled on, claiming the proposed constitutional amendment was “insufficient.” Thurston’s office didn’t have a comment on Thursday’s ruling, reports KATV.
Responsible Growth Arkansas had filed a lawsuit in response to the board’s decision.
“The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November.”
“[W]e conclude that the ballot title at issue is complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import of the proposed amendment,” the court published in its majority opinion. “Therefore, Respondents and Intervenors have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient. The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November.”
“I am confident that Arkansans can read this ballot title and understand that a vote for the initiative is a vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and that their decision could have a wide-ranging impact on current medical-marijuana laws and regulations and children,” wrote Justice Rhonda Wood in a concurring opinion.
“It is for the people — not this court — to exercise the right to amend the constitution and our court must continue to preserve this first power of the people of Arkansas by not supplanting their decisions with ours,” Wood wrote.
120 Dispensaries; 12 Cultivation Facilities
If voters approved the amendment, Arkansas’ 40 existing medical marijuana dispensaries will receive licenses to sell adult-use Cannabis, reports TB&P. They’ll also get licenses to open second adult-use marijuana dispensaries at another location. Licenses also would be available to others for additional adult-use dispensaries and cultivation facilities.
According to the proposed amendment, adults could carry up to 1 ounce of weed for use and consumption. The law would limit the number of dispensaries and cultivation facilities to 120 and 12, respectively. Of the 120 dispensaries, 40 licensees would be selected by lottery.
Arkansas voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.
“We Were Hoping For This Result”
“We were hoping for this result and really appreciate the ruling of the Supreme Court taking a look at the issues we raised and agreeing with us that our ballot title was sufficient and the votes of the people should be counted,” said RGA lawyer Steve Lancaster, reports THV11.
In addition to confirming that adult-use marijuana votes will count in November, the Arky Supremes made another decision Thursday evening.
Justices also declared the current process for putting issues on the ballot unconstitutional.
They ruled that the current system, with the secretary of state approving signatures and an election commission signing off, should be reworked by the Arkansas Legislature.
That issue will have to be addressed next year. In the meantime, the ballot issue to legalize marijuana will go before voters in November.
Out-Of-Step Arkansas GOP Officials Lobby Against Legalization
A recent poll by TB&P and Hendrix College showed that the amendment could find great support among Arkansas voters in November. According to survey results, 58.5% of respondents said they would vote for legalization, reports KARK.
But Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson — like other Arky Republicans — is very publicly opposing to the legalization measure, reports Filter. That shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course. After all, Governor Hutchinson’s resumé includes an ignoble stint as head of the despised federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
“The science is clear. Recreational marijuana leads to increased drug use among minors & more dangerous roadways,” Gov. Hutchinson lied on Twitter, reports the Arkansas Times. “This November, I’m voting NO on Issue 4 to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas & I hope you’ll join me.”
Hutchinson’s Democratic opponent for Governor, Chris Jones, has enthusiastically endorsed the Responsible Growth Arkansas amendment.