LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Advocates for recreational marijuana use in Arkansas received positive news from the legal system Thursday evening.
In an opinion released shortly after 5 p.m., the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the vote on the general election ballot measure focusing on recreational marijuana use in the state will count.
The bill had been provisionally added to the printed ballots heading out to voting precincts around the state. The secretary of state’s office had earlier verified that the petition to get the measure in front of voters had enough signatures.
The measure was then rejected by the state board of electors Aug. 3, which cited the proposed ballot title’s not including information on THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
“With these standards in mind, we conclude that the ballot title at issue is complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import of the proposed amendment,” the court published in its majority opinion. “Therefore, Respondents and Intervenors have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient. The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November.”
Justice Rhonda Wood, in a concurring opinion, stated in part:
“I am confident that Arkansans can read this ballot title and understand that a vote for the initiative is a vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and that their decision could have a wide-ranging impact on current medical-marijuana laws and regulations and children. It is for the people—not this court—to exercise the right to amend the constitution, and our court must continue to preserve this first power of the people of Arkansas by not supplanting their decisions with ours.”
Justice Shawn Womack concurred in part with the majority’s opinion but also dissented. His dissent was centered on the secretary of state’s finding the ballot title “insufficient,” which was at the center of Responsible Growth Arkansas bringing its suit to the supreme court.
“I am confident that Arkansans can read this ballot title and understand that a vote for the initiative is a vote in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and that their decision could have a wide-ranging impact on current medical-marijuana laws and regulations and children,” Womack stated. “It is for the people—not this court—to exercise the right to amend the constitution, and our court must continue to preserve this first power of the people of Arkansas by not supplanting their decisions with ours.”
“The ballot title fails to sufficiently advise voters of the magnitude of the change and gives the marijuana industry greater leeway to operate with limited oversight in these areas,” Womack’s opinion continued.
The ballot title’s not including information on THC content was the basis for the state board of electors declaring it inadequate and not permitting the ballot initiative to appear on the November general election ballot.
Responsible Growth Arkansas, which had submitted the ballot initiative to the secretary of state’s office for it to be on the November ballot, filed with the Supreme Court Aug. 4, the day after the board of electors’ decision.
The Thursday majority opinion also pointed out a legal problem with the way ballot initiatives are approved or denied in Arkansas. State law, the opinion pointed out, states that the board of electors shall certify the ballot title to the secretary of state.
“The word “shall” is mandatory,” the opinion stated. “… the Board has no discretion to determine whether to certify a ballot title; it must certify the title to the Secretary of State…. Accordingly, the Board had no authority to decline to certify the ballot title to the Secretary of State, and its action is without legal effect.”
A recent poll by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College showed that the bill could find great support among Arkansas voters in November, with 58.5% of respondents saying they would vote for the measure if it ended up on the ballot.
Family council, a conservative organization based in Little Rock isn’t in favor of the Supreme Court’s decision, calling it a “recipe for disaster in Arkansas.”
President Jerry Cox releasing a statement saying quote, “issue 4 is a misleading proposal to legalize marijuana in Arkansas. It was crafted and supported by the marijuana industry. If it passes, Arkansas arguably will have the most unregulated cannabis industry of any state in America. That could bring serious crime and
drug problems to Arkansas.”
On the other hand, Responsible Growth Arkansas, who raised more than 4 million dollars in total in favor of issue 4 is pleased with he decision.
Chairman Eddie Armstrong says “this court decision means Arkansans will ultimately have the last say and choice to vote for issue 4 this fall. The economic benefits to our state, increased funding for law enforcement, cancer research, and tackling our state’s challenging prison overcrowding crisis by reforming our current law that safely decriminalizes cannabis.
These are major strides in the right direction and will have a lasting positive impact across all sectors of Arkansas.”
RGA is also responsible for submitting over 190,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s office in favor of issue 4.
Family Council adding that marijuana legalization is being driven by drug cartels and big businesses. Going on to say “we remain committed to fighting them every step of the way. Our state doesn’t need another drug problem.”