Activists working to
“We’re confident in our signatures and our amendment,” Steve Lancaster, counsel for Responsible Growth Arkansas,
If enough signatures are verified, the proposal will head to the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, which will decide if the proposal will be added to the ballot.
Scott Hardin, the communications director for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, said that the office of the Secretary of State will now be tasked with confirming that the group has collected the nearly 90,000 signatures
“That’s the goal for all these groups that are trying to get a ballot proposal successfully on the ballot in November: 89,151 is that magic number,”
Amendment Would Legalize Cannabis for Adults
Under the ballot
Hardin said that if the proposal qualifies for the ballot and is passed by the state’s voters in November, Arkansas could see legal sales of adult-use cannabis begin by early next year. After voters in the state legalized medical marijuana in November 2016, it took more than two years for sales to begin at medicinal cannabis dispensaries.
“With the recreational proposal, the one that’s still active, with that, it would require the state to issue a number of recreational licenses, really within the first few months of 2023,” he explained. “While medical got slowed down in the rulemaking process, with this proposal that’s still active, that wouldn’t be the case,” he said.
The proposed initiative would prohibit the advertising of cannabis products and packaging design that may appeal to children. Additionally, the proposal levies a 10.5 percent tax on adult-use cannabis while eliminating an equal tax added to purchases of medical marijuana.
“What this proposal does is takes all the taxes away from the medical program. The medical program remains active, it’s still there, but the one change to it is that it would no longer be taxed,” Hardin said. “Then you bring the taxes over to the recreational side, and then they have specified that a lot of that tax revenue would go to law enforcement, health care and other groups.”
Lancaster said that legalizing cannabis for use by adults would “bring needed funds and jobs to our state.”
“I think come November, we’ll pass this thing,” he added.
The Secretary of State’s office has two weeks to verify the signatures. If not enough signatures are verified but the group has collected at least 75 percent of the required total, Responsible Growth Arkansas will be given another 30 days to collect additional signatures.
Not All Activists Support Legalization Effort
Not all activists intent on cannabis policy reform support the proposal from Responsible Growth Arkansas. Representatives of the Arkansas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) say the initiative is an attempt to monopolize Arkansas’ adult-use cannabis industry.
“Their [amendment] is horrible,” Fults said Melissa Fults, the group’s treasurer. “We need the competition, and we need everyday people in [the industry], not the mega-rich,” the activist added.
Arkansas NORML is supporting a separate recreational marijuana legalization initiative that they hope will qualify for the ballot in 2024. Fults says that their proposal is “the only people-oriented option.” The proposed initiative would allow for the expungement of past marijuana convictions and permit adults to grow a limited number of cannabis plants at home.
Fults said that if Board of Election Commissioners approves the proposal from Responsible Growth Arkansas for the ballot, activists could file suit to block the initiative.
“When you control the industry, you can set the prices to whatever you want to and make people pay it,” Fults said. “It would also destroy the medical industry we worked so hard to build.”