SUBSCRIBE

ADVERTISEMENT

highthere-banner

Arkansas Activists Push Toward Recreational Cannabis Legalization

A.J. Herrington

By A.J. Herrington

July 19, 2022

Shot of a young man smoking a marijuana joint at home

iStock

Activists working to

recreational marijuana in Arkansas submitted petitions to qualify a voter initiative for the November general election, far exceeding the number of signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot. This month, the group Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted the petitions for the legalization constitutional amendment with more than 190,000 signatures, more than twice the number needed, to the office of the Secretary of State, which will begin the process of validating the signatures.

“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,”

. “All of this leads to, by Aug. 25, the secretary of state’s office informs the 75 counties what is going to be on the ballot. So, if recreational is going to be on the ballot, we’ll know by August.”

ADVERTISEMENT

highthere-banner

Amendment Would Legalize Cannabis for Adults

Under the ballot

, cannabis would be legalized for use by adults 21 and older. The measure would also establish a regulatory framework for recreational marijuana production and sales, with the number of licenses offered limited to 20 for cannabis cultivators and 120 dispensaries across the state. The proposal does not for the home cultivation of cannabis.

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

highthere-banner

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.”

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

highthere-banner