To the dismay of the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, the title of an electoral measure for adult cannabis use is Not misleading, and the matter will be decided by voters this November, the state Supreme Court ruled on September 17. 22.
That ruling was also a setback for Save Arkansas From Epidemic (SAVE) and Safe and Secure Communities, which worked their way into the lawsuit after filing motions to intervene in an attempt to keep the legalization measure out of the ballot. SAVE’s filing included an affidavit from Kevin Sabet, the co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), a notorious prohibition group.
In a divided Supreme Court decision, majority opinion ruled that the ballot title for Arkansas’s proposed constitutional amendment for responsible growth adequately informs voters and is sufficient for inclusion on November 19. 8 ballot.
“We conclude that the electoral title in question is sufficiently comprehensive to convey an intelligent idea of the scope and importance of the proposed amendment,” Judge Robin Wynne wrote in the majority opinion. “Therefore, respondents and interveners did not face the burden of proving that the electoral title is insufficient. The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November “.
The legal battle, in part, stemmed from the election referendum’s goal of repealing the dosage limit for THC, particularly in cannabis-containing food and beverage products, under Arkansas Amendment 98, the measure of voting on cannabis. medical that voters approved with a 53.2% majority in the 2016 election.
RELATED: Arkansas Cannabis Advocates Supreme Court File Brief, Argue Ballot Title Sufficient
In a September 2 response letter filed by Attorneys for Wright’s Responsible Growth, Lindsey & Jennings LLC, advocates of legalization argued that the referendum title specifically informs voters that the election question seeks to repeal that section of Amendment 98. which places a limit of 10 milligrams on THC infused edible products and beverages.
In that brief, the lawyers wrote: “Reference to existing law provides substantive information to voters. This court held that “every person is assumed to know the law”. The voters therefore presumably know the existing law referred to in the title of the vote ”.
A majority of the Supreme Court agreed in this week’s opinion, reaffirming that the court has repeatedly stated in previous decisions that a voting title “is not necessary” to summarize existing law.
“We are not convinced that the specific details of abolishing THC dosage limits in a category of marijuana-containing products are ‘so significant and material as to provide the voter with serious reason for reflection,'” wrote Wynne. “The repeal of the dosage limits is not a fundamental provision of the proposed amendment so that the lack of description renders the electoral title insufficient”.
Furthermore, election officials and interveners argued that the title of the ballot paper did not sufficiently explain the child-resistant packaging and advertising restrictions; the effects of the proposed amendment on the industrial hemp industry; the creation of first and second level cultivation licenses; and the definition of an adult at 21 as it relates to “adult” cannabis.
The majority of the Supreme Court also rejected these arguments, ordering the 2022 measure on the use of cannabis for adults to appear on the ballot and be counted.
“The final question is whether the voter, while inside the voting booth, is able to make an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understand the consequences of their vote based on the title of the ballot. “wrote Wynne. “It is not our purpose to examine the relative merit or fault of the proposed changes to the law; rather, our function is simply to review the measure to ensure that, if it is presented to the people for consideration in a popular vote, it is presented fairly. “
The Supreme Court decision comes after Arkansas Responsible Growth organizers filed more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, more than double the 89,151 valid signatures needed to make it to the ballot. On July 29, Secretary of State John Thurston certified the signatures for the ballot, but then the state Board of Election Commissioners (chaired by Thurston) rejected the measure (as misleading in title) on August 18. 3.
Responsible growth advocates filed a lawsuit on. 4 at the State Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the council.
“We are extremely grateful to the Supreme Court for agreeing with us and for finding it to be a complete validation of everything we have done,” said Steve Lancaster, a Responsible Growth Arkansas attorney, in a public statement in September. 22. “We are excited and we are going to November.”
Inserted in the nuts and bolts of the group’s ballot proposal, the measure aims to:
- legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and over;
- establish a licensing program for commercial cultivation and retail;
- authorize the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division (ABC) to regulate the sector; And
- levy an “additional sales” tax of 10% at retail with 70% of the revenue going to the state general fund.
Existing healthcare workers would be placed in the expanded adult market, while an additional 12 grow licenses and 40 retail licenses would be awarded via a lottery. But existing healthcare professionals would have an edge in the new market.
Under the voting proposal, each medical practitioner would be able to double their existing retail footprint (but no more than 18 adult dispensaries per property) while new market entrants could not open a dispensary within 5 miles of those pre-established retailers. . Furthermore, new entrants to the grow market would limit themselves to growing no more than 250 mature cannabis plants at a time.
Targeting the absence of a home growing provision, Arkansas NORML treasurer Melissa Fults opposes the responsible growth measure in the wake of a 2020 initiative she helped lead by failing to live up to an attempt collection of signatures more than two years ago.
The Responsible Growth 2022 vote measure also omits a provision to cancel criminal records. Within the filed initiative, there is no mention of expulsion, social equity, restorative justice or individuals disproportionately affected by the ban.