Push begins for marijuana legalization in Arkansas.
A group that did not get a leisure marijuana modification on the poll 4 years in the past and sued the lawyer normal over procedural points hopes to provide Arkansas voters an opportunity to legalize leisure marijuana subsequent yr.
Arkansas True Grass, a bunch of marijuana advocates and volunteers, is gathering signatures for a constitutional modification that might permit Arkansans aged 21 and over to buy as much as 4 ounces of marijuana a day and develop as much as 12 crops of their very own. The group wants 89,151 verified signatures to make the November 2022 poll. The deadline to submit petitions is July 8, 2022.
Generally known as The Arkansas Leisure Marijuana Modification of 2022, the measure would allow marijuana for leisure use and wouldn’t require customers to register with the state or acquire a card to make purchases. The modification wouldn’t make any adjustments to the state medical marijuana program, which voters handed in 2016.
The brand new measure would additionally increase the variety of companies allowed to promote marijuana. The modification permits for a vast variety of enterprise licenses, which spokeswoman Briana Boling mentioned could be “reasonably priced” and could be administered by the state Division of Agriculture. Below the state’s medical marijuana program, the Medical Marijuana Fee licenses dispensaries and cultivators, whereas the Alcoholic Beverage Management division regulates these companies. The state Division of Well being points playing cards to certified sufferers.
The brand new program would even be taxed in a different way than medical marijuana. Below the modification, leisure marijuana could be topic to the prevailing gross sales tax, an extra 8% excise tax and a neighborhood gross sales tax of 5%. Medical marijuana purchases wouldn’t face any new taxes underneath the modification.
Whereas the modification wouldn’t change the framework of the state medical marijuana program, it could improve competitors and drive down costs, Boling mentioned.
“What now we have proper now in Arkansas isn’t good for sufferers,” Boling mentioned. “It’s simply not. And the folks that basically want it will possibly’t afford it, can’t get it. Can’t even afford to see the physician to get it. That’s what wants to vary.”
The Arkansas True Grass proposal would additionally expunge convictions for some marijuana offenses. Below the modification, anybody incarcerated or serving parole or probation for a violation of the Arkansas Uniformed Managed Substances Act and whose present and solely conviction is for a marijuana-related offense could be launched. All legal data of such convictions earlier than the passage of the modification could be expunged.
“We need to free the folks and the plant,” Boling mentioned. “We don’t suppose that anyone ought to be arrested over a plant that’s confirmed to be safer than alcohol and tobacco.”
Arkansas True Grass tried to get a leisure marijuana modification on the poll in 2016 and 2020. The group struggled, throughout its 2016 try, to get poll language accredited by Legal professional Common Leslie Rutledge, who was required by state legislation on the time to approve poll titles earlier than petitioners may start gathering signatures. Rutledge in the end accredited the poll title two months earlier than the election, however the group didn’t have sufficient time to assemble the mandatory signatures, Boling mentioned.
The group sued Rutledge over the matter in 2019 and a brand new state legislation handed that yr modified the necessities for getting a measure on the poll. The brand new legislation eliminated the necessity for the lawyer normal to approve poll titles and, as a substitute, required poll titles solely to be filed with the Secretary of State’s workplace. If poll titles obtain sufficient signatures, they’re accredited or rejected by the Board of Election Commissioners.
David Sofa, the Little Rock lawyer who helped draft marijuana amendments that made the poll in 2012 and 2016, will not be optimistic about Arkansas True Grass’ possibilities.
“I don’t suppose they’ve an opportunity in hell of getting on the poll, however anyone can file something these days,” Sofa mentioned.
Sofa, who mentioned he’s not presently engaged on a marijuana measure for 2022, mentioned the change within the course of from getting “free authorized recommendation” from the lawyer normal to gathering signatures earlier than approval makes it tough to have a profitable measure.
The petition course of will also be costly. Sofa estimated it could take roughly $750,000 to pay canvassers to get sufficient signatures to make the poll earlier than funding a marketing campaign to assist the measure. Arkansas True Grass has raised $13,573.91 and spent $10,787.29, in line with the group’s most up-to-date submitting with the Arkansas Ethics Fee in September. The group has $2,786.62 on-hand.
In 2012, Arkansans voted on a medical marijuana modification that received 48.56% and failed by about 30,000 votes. 4 years later, voters accredited the present medical marijuana legislation with 53.11% voting in favor.
A minimum of one different effort to legalize marijuana for grownup use, possible with vital monetary backing, is predicted to be introduced later this yr. Former state Rep. Eddie Armstrong, filed on Oct. 15 a press release of group to advocate for a poll initiative for marijuana legalization, however the precise modification hasn’t been filed with the secretary of state but. Armstrong promised extra data within the coming weeks.
The acceptance of marijuana has elevated considerably and the correct leisure modification can move in Arkansas, Sofa mentioned. Because the 2016 modification handed, Arkansas has opened 37 dispensaries all through the state and has greater than 79,000 certified sufferers.
“Leisure marijuana will move in Arkansas with the correct regulatory and tax construction concerned,” Sofa mentioned.
A profitable measure would improve the variety of cultivators and dispensaries and allocate dispensaries through the use of a population-based components just like the one the state makes use of to allocate licenses for liquor shops, Sofa mentioned. The measure must also allow cooperative “micro-cultivators” in every county slightly than dwelling grows. A profitable measure would additionally expunge marijuana-related convictions and would tax leisure marijuana whereas eliminating taxes on medical marijuana, in line with Sofa.
The time is correct to move a leisure marijuana modification, Sofa mentioned. Statewide referendums solely have to surpass 50% of the votes forged to move, however that would change. The 2022 poll will embody a query referred by the state legislature on whether or not statewide referendums ought to require a 60% majority to move. No matter whether or not that query passes in 2022, any measures on the 2022 poll will solely have to exceed 50% to move, however subsequent yr could possibly be the final time that’s the case.
“If you will do one thing in Arkansas, it’s essential do it now,” Sofa mentioned.
If voters approve a leisure marijuana modification, Arkansas would develop into the second state within the South and the primary amongst its neighbors to legalize marijuana for leisure (or adult-use) functions. Virginia legislators legalized leisure marijuana earlier this yr, however the legislation doesn’t take impact till 2024, in line with the Nationwide Group for the Reform of Marijuana Legal guidelines.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adults, however Illinois is the closest state to Arkansas to take such a step. Arkansas is amongst 37 states (and the District of Columbia) which have accredited marijuana for medicinal functions. Arkansas’s neighboring states of Oklahoma, Missouri and Louisiana have accredited marijuana for some type of medicinal use.
Boling is optimistic about Arkansas True Grass’ probabilities of making the poll and mentioned most individuals she encounters are supportive. The group not too long ago collected greater than 300 signatures on the Arkansas-Oklahoma State Honest in Fort Smith and on the Major Road Meals Truck Pageant in Little Rock. The group has about 10 volunteers and about 70 supportive companies which can be amassing signatures.
“We’re all volunteers,” Boling mentioned. “No person will get paid for something. We’re only a grassroots legalization group. We simply need to see Arkansas inexperienced.”