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Arkansas Weed Legalization Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

Officials in Arkansas announced that the proposed ballot measure for legalizing recreational marijuana had received sufficient signatures to be eligible for November’s ballot. Activists with the group Responsible Growth Arkansas, which is headed by former Arkansas Democratic House minority leader Eddie Armstrong, submitted the petitions to the secretary of state’s office last month, saying at the time they had collected more than twice as many signatures necessary to qualify the proposal for this year’s general election.

Kevin Niehaus, a spokesman for the Arkansas secretary of state’s office, said after signature counters reached 90,000 verified signatures on Thursday night they notified the Responsible Growth Arkansas campaign that the constitutional amendment initiative had been approved for the November ballot. State officials will now concentrate their efforts on verifying signatures for a separate measure to amend Arkansas’ casino gambling statute.

“Because of the time frame to get this done, they stopped at 90,000 verified signatures and now have moved on to the casino petition,” Niehaus said on Friday. “Knowing how many signatures they still had left to go and with it already reaching 90,000 signatures, they felt comfortable saying they made it.”

Arkansas An Initiative would legalize recreational marijuana

If it wins November’s polls, the proposal would legalize marijuana for adults over 21. The proposal would also allow the state’s existing medical pot growers and dispensaries to apply for adult-use cannabis licenses. A lottery system would award 40 additional licenses for recreational cannabis operations. There would only be 20 cultivation licenses and 120 dispensary licenses in the state, which includes existing medical marijuana companies.

Responsible Growth Arkansas filed petitions in July that contained 192,828 signatures from voters who supported the legalization amendment. Under state law, the group needed 10% of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, or 89,151 signatures, to qualify for this year’s ballot. According to campaign officials, support was strong in the state for the initiative.

“It was across the entire state, and it really shows a broad level of support geographically,” said Steve Lancaster, counsel for Responsible Growth Arkansas. “To get that many signatures from Arkansans it can’t be all Democrats, or all Republicans, or all Independents. For that to happen, it is necessary for Arkansans in large numbers to sign the petition. The people want to vote on this and make this decision themselves.”

“We are really grateful for the voters who signed our petitions and appreciative to the secretary of state’s office for verifying our signatures,” Lancaster added.

Before the measure is officially approved for the ballot, the proposal’s ballot title and popular name must be approved by the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners. Lancaster indicated that Wednesday is the expected date for the next meeting of members.

Two Initiative Proposals Vying for Voters’ Attention

Responsible Growth Arkansas’s effort to legalize adult use cannabis is just one of the two. An additional measure by activists was also proposed to allow Arkansas’ Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment to be on the ballot. It has now been pushed back to 2024. Under that proposal, the number of business licenses would be set as a proportion of the state’s population. This proposal includes provisions to allow for home cultivation and the expungement or revocation of any past marijuana-related convictions. It also provides assistance for patients with low incomes who are interested in medical cannabis.

Melissa Fults (patient advocate) opposes Responsible Growth Arkansas and hopes that voters wait until 2024 before legalizing recreational cannabis. The campaign has received a large number of signatures, which she is skeptical about.

“It’s kind of strange,” she said. “We were told by supposedly very reliable sources they only had 79,000 signatures at the start of June. They managed to collect 120,000 signatures within 30 days in one of the most hot summers. I am really concerned about how valid those signatures are.”

But Niehaus noted that the secretary of state’s office uses software that goes through the submitted petitions page by page to verify the number of signatures.

“It verifies if they are a registered voter and makes sure they didn’t accidentally sign a petition two or three times,” Niehuas said.