ARKANSAS, USA — In order for recreational marijuana in Arkansas to be legalized, the issue has to be on an election ballot. Groups across the state have been trying to get it there by racking up more than 89,000 signatures on a petition by July 8.
Arkansas law says in order to have a constitutional amendment on a ballot, the number of signatures has to be 10% of the votes cast for governor in the most recent election. The deadline to get that amount is four months before the election the issue is to be on.
In the case of recreational marijuana in Arkansas, the requirements include:
- A deadline of July 8, 2022
- At least 89,151 valid signatures
On July 29, the Arkansas Secretary of State's office announced that they were able to certify enough signatures on a petition that would put recreational marijuana on the November ballot in Arkansas.
Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group advocating for the constitutional amendment on the ballot, reported having around 200,000 signatures—twice over the threshold needed.
If recreational marijuana makes it onto the 2022 ballot and is passed, it would:
- Legalize marijuana for adults over 21
- Reform existing drug laws in the state
- Dedicate marijuana tax income toward the state court and law enforcement systems
- Remove taxes from the Arkansas medical marijuana program
“Through the first five months of 2022, an average of $741,000 is spent each day across the state’s 38 dispensaries to purchase medical marijuana,” said Scott Hardin, spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (ADFA).
In June, the ADFA reported that 102,710 pounds of medical marijuana had been sold so far since 2019.
“Come Friday, we’re going to turn in 200,000 signatures of Arkansans,” said Steve Lancaster, Wright Lindsey & Jennings, LLP partner representing Responsible Growth Arkansas.
Originally there were a total of five recreational marijuana petitions. Now there's only one. Arkansas True Grass says it suspended its canvassing campaign in early June after only getting about 40,000 signatures. It plans to regroup come 2024.
“The thing that really sets us apart from the others is we understand that this is a product that needs to be regulated by the state,” Lancaster said.
The group says it would add 40 dispensaries across the state and 20 more craft grow facilities. It would not allow for home growing in order to "protect children."
All of this could mean an economic boost for Arkansas.
“Over the last 12 months, we saw $32 million generated from medical marijuana to the state. If recreational were to happen, say those numbers change very dramatically,” Hardin said.
The group also says its amendment would remove the tax from medical marijuana patients and shift it to people buying it for recreational use.
“Those monies will go for law enforcement, goes to drug court, and would also go to cancer research,” Lancaster said.
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