Another group of Arkansas activists is joining the fight to put marijuana legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot, filing a new reform initiative on Thursday.
Arkansans for Marijuana Reform submitted the proposed constitutional amendment to the secretary of state’s office. It would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to four ounces of cannabis flower, two ounces of concentrates and cultivate up to six mature marijuana plants and six seedlings for personal use.
The state Department of Finance and Administration would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses. They would have to issue at least one retail license per 15,000 residents. No individual or entity could possess more than one cultivation and one dispensary license.
The courts would be obligated to provide relief to people with past convictions for possession or sales of up to 16 ounces of cannabis or six plants. However, they would have some discretion as to whether relief constitutes release from incarceration, expungements of past records and/or the restoration of voting rights.
“This is the right thing to do. I think it is a very good middle-of-the-road deal,” Melissa Fults, director of the campaign, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “I think it will serve the consumers, it will serve the industry well and I think it will serve the people that don’t want to be consumers but are concerned about [the market] being the Wild West.”
Arkansans for Marijuana Reform isn’t the only group eyeing the 2022 ballot for marijuana reform.
Late last month, a former Arkansas lawmaker started leading a campaign that also intends to put cannabis legalization on the state’s 2022 ballot. Eddie Armstrong, a Democrat who previously served as minority leader in the state House of Representatives before leaving office in 2019, is chairing the newly formed advocacy group Responsible Growth Arkansas. The text of the campaign’s initiative has not yet be released, however.
A separate group of activists with Arkansas True Grass is already in the signature gathering process for a 2022 ballot initiative that would create a system of regulated sales for adults 21 and older, allowing them to purchase up to four ounces of cannabis and grow up to 12 plants for personal use.
“I just felt like I had no choice but to do this,” Fults, of Arkansans for Marijuana Reform, said. “I have fought too long and too hard—and I just felt like this was the only choice I had to get involved and to offer an initiative that will bring money into the state and will create thousands of jobs, but still be fair.”
Under her group’s proposal, individual municipalities would be able to ban commercial marijuana operations from being located in their jurisdiction if there’s a majority vote via a citizen referendum.
The legislature could levy a tax on adult-use cannabis products—but not medical marijuana. There’s no specific tax rate outlined in the initiative, but it does specify that, after covering administrative costs, revenue would be divided between K-12 education and after school programs (50 percent), University of Arkansas cancer research and studies into medical cannabis (40 percent) and the state general fund (10 percent).
Both True Grass and Arkansans for Marijuana Reform attempted to place marijuana legalization initiatives on the 2020 ballot, but both campaigns were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic and failed to collect enough signatures by the deadline.
That’s despite a federal judge’s ruling in May 2020 that the secretary of state needed accept signatures that were not collected in-person or notarized due to the excess burdens that arose during the health crisis.
Meanwhile, activists are hard at work across the country seeking to place drug policy reform before voters next year.
In South Dakota, for example, the secretary of state gave activists approval to launch a signature gathering drive to put a marijuana legalization initiative on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Oklahoma activists filed a pair of 2022 ballot initiatives to legalize adult-use marijuana and remodel the state’s existing medical cannabis program.
Nebraska marijuana activists have begun petitioning for a pair of complementary initiatives to legalize medical cannabis that they hope to place on the state’s 2022 ballot.
Ohio activists are collecting signatures for a 2022 ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state.
Florida activists recently filed a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for adult use.
New Hampshire lawmakers are pursuing a new strategy to legalize marijuana in the state that involves putting a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot for voters to decide on in 2022.
Lawmakers in Maryland are also crafting legislation to place a marijuana legalization referendum on the 2022 ballot after the House speaker called for the move.
Missouri voters may see a multiple marijuana initiatives on the state’s ballot next year, with a new group filing an adult-use legalization proposal that could compete with separate reform measures that are already in the works.
Activists in Idaho are working to advance separate measures to legalize possession of recreational marijuana and to create a system of legal medical cannabis sales. State officials recently cleared activists to begin collecting signatures for a revised initiative to legalize possession of marijuana that they hope to place before voters on the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, a separate campaign to legalize medical cannabis in the state is also underway, with advocates actively collecting signatures to qualify that measure for next year’s ballot.
After a House-passed bill to legalize marijuana in North Dakota was rejected by the Senate in March, some senators hatched a plan to advance the issue by referring it to voters on the 2022 ballot. While their resolution advanced through a key committee, the full Senate blocked it. However, activists with the group North Dakota Cannabis Caucus are collecting signatures to qualify a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis for the 2022 ballot.
Wyoming’s attorney general issued ballot summaries for proposed initiatives to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize cannabis possession, freeing up activists to collect signatures to qualify for the 2022 ballot.
And it’s not just marijuana measures that reform activists are seeking to qualify for state ballots next year. A California campaign was recently cleared to begin collecting signatures for an initiative to legalize psilocybin. And advocates in Washington State have announced plans to put a proposal to decriminalize all drug before voters.
Read the text of the new Arkansas marijuana initiative below:
Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.