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Arkansas Legalization Activists Submit Double the Required Signatures to Qualify Ballot Initiative

A marijuana reform organization in Arkansas handed in what it claims is enough valid signatures to qualify a cannabis legalization question for the state’s ballot in November.

Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted more than 190,000 signatures in support of the constitutional amendment to the secretary of state’s office, which is more than double the number required to qualify an initiative for the ballot. State officials now have two weeks to verify the signatures.

Steve Lancaster, a spokesperson for the group, said their review of the collected signatures meant “we’re going to be well in excess of what we need to get on the ballot.”

Should Responsible Growth Arkansas fall short, however, it would be given a further 30 days to make up the shortfall, so long as they have collected at least 75 percent of the required amount.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend Arkansas marijuana laws so as to allow adults 21 and older to buy and possess up to one ounce of cannabis from state-licensed retailers.

Responsible Growth Arkansas wasn’t the only organization aiming to qualify a cannabis legalization proposal for the state’s ballot, but the other campaigns – Arkansas True Grass and Arkansans for Marijuana Reform – seemingly failed to collect enough signatures before the deadline. Supporters of these other groups have criticized certain provisions in Responsible Growth Arkansas’s legalization proposal, claiming it would favor large businesses already operating in the state’s existing medical marijuana industry.

Marijuana reform advocates in favor of criminal justice reform are also disappointed that the initiative put forward by Responsible Growth Arkansas doesn’t contain provisions to facilitate expungement of marijuana-related convictions that would become legal under the proposal. Lancaster said this would be addressed by the legislature should voters approve of the initiative.

He also said the group decided not to include provisions to allow home cultivation of cannabis on the basis that this would prove too divisive among voters.

In brief, here’s what Responsible Growth Arkansas’ marijuana legalization proposal includes:

  • Adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to one ounce of marijuana from state-licensed retailers.
  • Home cannabis cultivation would remain prohibited.
  • Residency requirements for medical cannabis patients would be repealed.
  • Existing medical cannabis dispensaries would be able to apply for an adult-use license, and would be permitted to open another recreational retail location. Forty additional recreational licenses would be issued on the basis of a lottery system.
  • As well as state and local taxes, the state would be able to impose an additional 10 percent supplemental tax on recreational marijuana sales.
  • Tax revenues would be split between law enforcement (15 percent), the state drug court program (5 percent), and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (10 percent). What remains would go into the state’s general fund.
  • Local governments would be able to hold a public vote on whether or not to allow adult-use retailers in their jurisdiction.

Responsible Growth Arkansas’ proposed constitutional amendment was originally filed by former Arkansas House Minority Leader Eddie Armstrong (D).

If statewide polls are anything to go by, the measure stands a good chance of gaining voter approval. A February survey found the reform had the support of 54 percent of Arkansas’ voters, compared to just 32 percent who believe cannabis should only be legal for medical purposes.

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