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Recreational Marijuana Will Get a Vote This Fall, but Will It Count?

2 min read

The state has certified a recreational cannabis amendment for the Nov. 8 ballot, but the votes will be counted only if supporters prevail in getting the Arkansas Supreme Court to restore its rejected ballot title.

A group of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries, Responsible Growth Arkansas, is promoting the plan to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over, and those businesses have devoted $3.4 million to the effort, according to state ethics records.

This month, the high court granted attorney Steve Lancaster’s petition to put the constitutional amendment back onto the ballot provisionally as an Aug. 25 deadline approached for certifying initiated measures.

The Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment would give each of the current 48 medicinal marijuana cultivation and dispensary license holders a recreational license to match, and would allow additional licenses to be granted via lottery, though new cultivators would be “second-tier” operators limited to growing 250 plants at any time. 

“They’ll print the ballots with our ballot title on there, then the court will take briefs from us and the state, and then it will decide if the votes are going to count,” said Lancaster, representing Responsible Growth. “We’re going to get some kind of ruling from the court in probably late September.” He said the 200,000 signatures behind the amendment attest to its popularity with voters. He predicts they’ll make Arkansas the 20th U.S. state to legalize recreational use.

Several vocal opponents of the legalization plan are in general supporters of legalization but object to the market carve-out for medicinal marijuana companies and the proposal’s lack of provisions to expunge the criminal records of Arkansans convicted of past marijuana crimes.

The amendment is opposed by Little Rock lawyer David Couch, author of Arkansas’ medicinal cannabis amendment, and Melissa Fults, treasurer of the marijuana advocacy group Arkansas NORML, who told the Arkansas Advocate last week that “something is not always better than nothing.” She, Couch and members of Arkansas True Grass, a group that fell short with its own recreational cannabis measure this year, are waiting to back what they see as better recreational proposals aimed at the 2024 ballot. 

Also on the Ballot:
To see what state legislators referred to the Arkansas ballot this year, go to arkansasbusiness.com/referrals2022

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