Arkansas is only a few short months away from voting on legalized cannabis. A ballot measure to legalize the adult recreational use of marijuana was submitted in July of this year. This is after over 190,000 signatures attesting support for marijuana legalization were collected, more than double what was required. The law would also allow for cultivation and sale of cannabis. 

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Although Arkansas voters will vote on the issue, there is still a question of whether or not these votes will be counted. Read on to find out why. 

What’s on the Ballot?

The amendment is titled, “An Amendment to Authorize the Possession, Personal Use, and Consumption of Cannabis by Adults, to Authorize the Cultivation and Sale of Cannabis by Licensed Commercial Facilities, and to Provide for the Regulation of Those Facilities.” 

a close up image of an election ballot with circles for “Yes” and “No” Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted more than enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the 2022 ballot, but it’s contingent on the Board of Election Commissioners’ approving the ballot title and popular name. photo credit

As evident in its title, if approved, the legislation would allow for adult use of cannabis throughout the Bear State.

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Resistance from Lawmakers

The ballot measure has met with considerable resistance from conservative politicians, including Republican Governor of Arkansas Asa Hutchingson. Just recently, Gov. Hutchingson made clear his intention to put a stop to the upcoming motion, saying at a police convention, “once again, they’re selling a harmful drug to the citizens of Arkansas based upon promises that look good.” Hutchingson was also quoted telling officers to “stand firm” against the resolution. 

Then, following Hutchingson’s signal of disapproval, the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners denied the certification of the proposed measure’s title. Despite the overwhelming support shown by the large number of signatures petitioned, final approval by the Board is still required by law in order for the amendment to actually get onto the ballot, “with some commissioners raising concerns about possible voter confusion over language related to issues such as THC limits.”

Cannabis Supporters in Arkansas

Steve Lancaster, Attorney for Responsible Growth for Arkansas, said of the election board’s decision, 

“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.”

The majority of Arkansas citizens approve of legalizing recreational cannabis on a state-wide level. This is according to results of a survey of Arkansas voters done earlier this year. 

Said Roby Brock, editor-in-chief of Talk Business & Politics, “even among Republican voters, the most opposed to legalization at all, eight in ten support either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana. While a plurality of Republicans support stopping at medical marijuana as the policy of the state, very healthy majorities of Democrats (71%) and Independents (64%) support recreational marijuana.”

What’s Next?

In response to the election board voting against the measure, Responsible Growth Arkansas — a marijuana advocacy group who campaigned for the signatures — filed a suit in Arkansas’s Supreme Court, claiming the Election Commissioners were “thwarting the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.”

a person holding a clipboard and signing a petition while another person turns the page for them Responsible Growth Arkansas filed the suit one day after the election board’s decision. photo credit

On Wednesday, August 10th, the state Supreme Court instructed the secretary of state’s office to certify the cannabis legalization initiative for the November ballot. This ensures the measure will be voted on in November, but it does not guarantee the votes will be counted. If the state’s Supreme Court sides with the election officials on the ballot title, those votes will, unfortunately, not matter. 

Let’s see how this plays out. We’re rooting for you, Arkansas. 

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