Arkansas' Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fails

Voters in Arkansas defeated a ballot measure that would have made the state the first in the Deep South to legalize recreational marijuanaaccording to The Associated Press

The measure failed to receive sufficient votes surprising many as a recent poll showed a comfortable majority of likely voters had favored the ballot measure. Tuesday's vote, however, broke down with 57% voting against the legalization measure and 43% voting in favor.

"I am disappointed by Arkansas’ failure to pass any adult-use cannabis initiatives this election season. This state has a long way to go in its efforts to right the wrongs of the war on drugs, but I believe in the cannabis activists working in Arkansas. I look forward to cheering on their progress in the future," said Jeffrey M. Zucker, vice chair of the Marijuana Policy Project Board of Directors and president of Green Lion Partners.

Political Tug Of War

After securing more than enough valid signatures, the initiative to legalize recreational marijuana was turned down by the State Board of Election Commissioners in August 2022. The commissioners dismissed the amendment on the grounds that the ballot title was not clear enough in terms of its impacts, with the main issue being the level of THC allowed in cannabis edibles.

Several hours before the initiative was rejected, Governor Asa Hutchinson encouraged law enforcement to “stand firm” against marijuana legalization, saying “marijuana is a harmful drug.”

Shortly after, Responsible Growth Arkansas filed an appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court to overturn a decision by the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners that ban a proposed amendment to reach the November ballot.

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in September that voters can decide whether to legalize recreational cannabis, after all, overturning a decision by the Board of Election Commissioners.

"We give the ballot title a liberal construction and interpretation in order that it secure the purposes of reserving to the people this power," the court said. "And we recognize that it is impossible to prepare a ballot title that would suit everyone. 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."

Despite the court battles and hard work, it seems Arkansas' legalization advocates will have to go back to the drawing board. 

Photo: Courtesy of underworld and Sean Pavone by Shutterstock

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Posted In: CannabisNewsPoliticsMarketsGeneral2022 midtermsArkansas cannabisAsa HutchinsonResponsible Growth Arkansas
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