Recreational Pot Question back to Arkansas ballots – but will votes count?
The Arkansas Supreme Court said this week that a proposal to legalize marijuana should be put back on the state’s ballot, but it remains unclear if the vote will ultimately mean anything.
It’s the latest twist in a chaotic dispute over a campaign to end Prohibition in the state. Earlier this month, advocacy group Responsible Growth Arkansas filed an appeal in the state Supreme Court after the state Board of Election Commissioners denied the group’s request to put the proposed constitutional amendment to a vote.
Responsible Growth Arkansas organizers submitted nearly 90,000 valid signatures — well over the threshold to qualify to vote — but the board of election commissioners rejected the proposal because “the commissioners said they didn’t believe the ballot fully explained to voters the impact of the change,” according to the Associated Press.
“For example, commissioners said they were concerned that the change would remove the state’s current limit under its Medical Marijuana Amendment on how much THC is allowed in edible marijuana products,” the Associated Press reported.
Responsible Growth Arkansas objected to the board’s decision, arguing that the commissioners were asking for an unreasonable amount of information.
“The kind of details that the board expected or required in this case would make our ballot thousands and thousands of words long,” Steve Lancaster, an attorney for Responsible Growth Arkansas, said after the board’s vote, as quoted by The Associated Press. “That’s just not practical for a vote.”
On Wednesday, the state Supreme Court sided with the group, but uncertainty remains high.
According to local television station KARK, “The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered Secretary of State John Thurston to affirm the elective title [recreational] Marijuana to put it on the November ballot,” which will “allow voters to vote for or against expanded access to marijuana in the state.”
But, according to the broadcaster, “it remains to be seen whether the votes for the parliamentary elections will be counted.”
KARK explains: “The deadlines for the items to appear on the November ballot are disputed. Any proposed Arkansas constitutional amendment must be ratified by the Secretary of State by August 25. However, the Supreme Court’s schedule does not allow him to hear the case brought by Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group campaigning to get recreational marijuana put to the vote in September.”
“It means that we will take part in the election. You will see the Good Growth Arkansas action on your ballot. You will be able to cast a vote,” Lancaster said, as quoted by local broadcaster 4029 News. “But what will happen in the meantime is that the Supreme Court will make its decision and if they agree with us that our ballot is good then the votes will count. Otherwise, if the court decides that our ballot is insufficient, they will simply never count those votes.”
“I am confident that once the court looks at this, we will agree that our elective title is fine,” Lancaster continued. “So once again I am confident that … the votes will be counted in November.”
Arkansas voters narrowly passed a 2016 ballot proposal that legalized medicinal cannabis in the state.
A poll earlier this year found that a slim majority of Arkansas voters — 53% — believe recreational cannabis should be legalized for adults 21 and older, while 32% said it should only be legal for medical use.
Only about 10% of respondents said cannabis should remain largely illegal.