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Arkansas Election Officials Reject Cannabis Legalization Ballot Measure

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

August 5, 2022

Arkansas state waving flag on blurry background, USA state news illustration. Blurry background.

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Election officials in

announced on Wednesday that a voter initiative to legalize recreational marijuana would not appear on the ballot for this year’s general election, saying the measure does not clearly set a THC limit on cannabis edibles.

With a unanimous vote, the state elections board declined to certify the popular name and ballot title for the proposition, despite the nearly 200,000 signatures submitted by the group Responsible Growth Arkansas in support of the measure. After the announcement from the board was released, representatives of the group vowed to appeal the board’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

“Today, despite zero public opposition or testimony against it, the State Board of Election Commissioners refused to allow Arkansans to vote on a proposed amendment for adult use cannabis in November, even though a record number of voters signed a petition in support of placing it on the ballot,”

, an attorney for Responsible Growth for Arkansas, in a statement from the advocacy group. “We believe that once our arguments are heard before a court of law, we will successfully place this issue before the voters of Arkansas on Nov. 8.” 

The proposed ballot measure from Responsible Growth Arkansas would legalize cannabis for use by adults 21 and over. The proposal would also allow the state’s existing medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries to apply for recreational cannabis licenses. An additional 40 licenses, to be awarded through a lottery system, would also be issued for adult-use cannabis businesses. The total number of licenses statewide would be limited to 20 cultivation and 120 dispensary licenses, including those already issued to medical marijuana businesses. 

Nearly 200,000 Voters Support Legalization Bid

In July, Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted petitions containing 192,828 signatures of voters supporting the legalization amendment. Under state law, the group needed 10 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, or just under 90,000 signatures, to qualify for this year’s ballot. Officials with the secretary of state’s office announced last week that they had verified more than 90,000 signatures, surpassing the threshold needed.

“The amendment is sound and we feel confident that will be the ruling of the courts. With the support of almost 200,000 Arkansans already, public polls showing strong support for likely passage, and the incredible grassroots momentum we see growing around this issue every day,” said Lancaster. “We believe this needs to be put before the voters of Arkansas. We are fully committed to arguing the merits of the amendment and ensuring that happens.”

Bilenda Harris-Ritter, the Republican Party’s designated member of the Board of Elections Commissioners, said that the body was concerned that the proposition from Responsible Growth Arkansas repeals a current THC limit on cannabis edibles in the state’s medical marijuana statute without specifying if a new cap will instated.

“I know they can’t put every single thing in here but I think that is significant enough,”

.

But Lancaster pushed back against that assertion, saying the amount of detail the board is seeking would create an impractical ballot proposal.

“The type of detail that the board expected, or demanded in this case, would make our ballot title thousands and thousands of words long,”

after the elections board nixed the proposal. “That just simply is not workable for a ballot.”

Lancaster also noted that while the initiative repeals the current THC limit on edibles, noting that the ballot title specifies that regulations are to be drafted by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

“It is essentially a very minor part of the amendment,” Lancaster said about the THC limit repeal. “I don’t believe that would  necessarily cause a voter to potentially change their vote. It clearly sets out what is being repealed.”

Lancaster said that the role of the elections board is to determine if the ballot title has misleading language or omits information that would likely change a voter’s mind, not to rule on the merits of the measure. Responsible Growth Arkansas has vowed to file a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court to have the measure placed on the ballot for the November election.

A.J. Herrington

About The Author

A.J. Herrington

HIGH THERE MISSION

WE’RE A CREATIVE COMMUNITY — EXPLORING THE SCIENCE, CRAFT, AND CULTURE OF CANNABIS.
WE BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE A COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS ERADICATING THE STIGMA, MISINFORMATION, AND INEQUITIES SURROUNDING THIS PLANT, SO WE CAN UNLOCK ITS TRUE POTENTIAL FOR ALL.