LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — In a 5-2 decision, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled the state must include an adult-use cannabis legalization initiative on the November ballot, overturning a recent decision by the Board of Election Commissioners. The initiative faced uncertainty when the board ruled against it in August, citing concerns the title was misleading regarding issues such as THC limits.
The state Supreme Court noted the legal sufficiency of the measure’s title, stating “A ballot title does not need to include every possible consequence or impact of a proposed measure and it does not need to address or anticipate every possible legal issue. This court has long recognized the impossibility of preparing a ballot title that would suit everyone.”
Ultimately, the court concluded “initiative power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions” and “the people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November.”
“We’re extremely grateful to the Supreme Court that they agreed with us and felt like it was a complete validation of everything we’ve done,” said Steve Lancaster, an attorney for Responsible Growth Arkansas. “We’re excited and moving on to November.”
A poll released on Sept. 15 found 59 percent of likely voters are in favor of the ballot initiative. Legalization across the state is not a certainty if the initiative passes, as local governments could prohibit adult-use retailers from operating in their jurisdiction.
Under the initiative, the state could impose up to a 10-percent supplemental tax on top of existing state taxes. Fifteen percent of tax revenue would go to law enforcement, a fact that’s highlighted by the pro-legalization campaign, which released an ad instructing residents to “vote to support our police.” The bill also contains no provisions to expunge or seal past criminal records for cannabis convictions and does not provide a social equity component offering licensing opportunities to communities harmed by the war on drugs.
If passed, the measure would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis from licensed retailers. The measure does not allow home cultivation. Individuals would be able to own stakes in more than 18 dispensaries, and those who own less than five percent of a cannabis business would not be subject to background checks.
As for businesses, licenses would be issued by the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration. Existing medical dispensaries would need to be licensed to serve adult consumers and open another retail location for recreational sales only. Regulators also would award forty additional adult-use retail licenses using a lottery system. Dispensaries would be able to cultivate and store up to 100 seedlings instead of the 50 current medical cannabis law allows. Finally, businesses also would be subject to specific adult-use advertising and packaging restrictions.