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Arkansas Election Commission Denies Cannabis Initiative Going to Vote

Advocacy group backing the measure files lawsuit with Arkansas Supreme Court.




The Arkansas State Capitol is seen in 2014. The state’s voting commission claims the title of a cannabis legalization initiative was “misleading” and denied it going to vote in November, despite the support of over 190,000 residents of Arkansas. PHOTO WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Despite more than 190,000 residents of Arkansas signing an initiative to put legalized cannabis on the state’s ballots this November, the measure was rejected from going to vote by the Arkansas State Board of Election Commissioners on Wednesday, reported Arkansas 40/29 TV.

Responsible Growth Arkansas — the cannabis advocacy group shepherding the initiative — filed suit with the Arkansas Supreme Court Supreme Court on Thursday, calling the commission’s rejection of the ballot measure “unconstitutional.”

The election commission denied the ballot initiative from going to vote for essentially a technicality. It says the comprehensively written measure made no mention of proposed limits to THC content in its ballot title. The commission is only required to certify the ballot titles if they “are not misleading.”

Responsible Growth — funded by medical cannabis cultivators who reportedly spent millions seeking the amendment’s passage — say the ballot’s title is legally sufficient, not misleading and presents a fair understanding of the issues.

“We believe that once our arguments are heard before a court of law, we will successfully place this issue before the voters of Arkansas,” Responsible Growth said in a statement.

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston, who is also chair of the state’s voting commission, was named in a suit over the commission’s denying a measure on cannabis legalization going before voters. PHOTO COURTESY OFFICE ARKANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE


The complaint before the Arkansas Supreme Court, RESPONSIBLE GROWTH V. JOHN THURSTON, names Arkansas’ Secretary of State John Thurston, who is also chair of the State Board of Election Commissioners. Thurston’s office had already approved the initiative, stating enough signatures had been gathered to go to vote.

The complaint states its intent “to challenge the State Board of Election Commissioners’ thwarting of the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.” The group will be asking for immediate relief from the Supreme Court to provisionally certify the initiative for the ballot.

“If they do, then the votes in November will be counted. If they decide against us, then again, people will be able to vote, but those votes won’t be counted,” said Responsible Growth Arkansas attorney Steve Lancaster.

The amendment to Arkansas constitution would allow the possession of up to one ounce, personal use and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and over, as well as the expansion of the cultivation and sale of cannabis by commercial facilities.

Medical marijuana was approved by voters in Arkansas in November 2016, with the first dispensary opening in 2019. By 2021, sales had reached $400 million. About 80,000 people had received medical marijuana cards.

The commission-rejected measure only required 89,151 signatures to qualify for the November state elections. That was easily surpassed with more than 100,000 additional cannabis supporters backing the measure.





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