FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on September 22 that a recreational marijuana amendment will be voted on in the general election in November.
The Court ruled in favor of a petition filed by Eddie Armstrong and Lance Huey on behalf of Responsible Growth Arkansas requesting that John Thurston, the Secretary of State and chair of the State Board of Election Commissioners, certify the ballot measure.
The board had declined to certify the amendment’s popular name and ballot title, which Thurston called “insufficient” just over a week ago. Responsible Growth then filed its petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court.
“The Board had no authority to decline to certify the ballot title to the Secretary of State, and its action is without legal effect,” the opinion stated.
The court also addressed allegations regarding the ballot title, saying that “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,” it added. “The ultimate issue is whether the voter, while inside the voting booth, is able to reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against the proposal and understands the consequences of his or her vote based on the ballot title.”
We conclude that the ballot title at issue is not insufficient for not explicitly stating that the proposed amendment would eliminate THC dosage limits in food and drink containing usable marijuana. Petitioners were not required to summarize the existing law related to THC dosage limits in those marijuana products. The ballot title identifies the sections of amendment 98 that would be repealed and the provisions that would replace those sections.Arkansas State Supreme Court opinion, September 22
The ruling also concluded that the ballot title was not misleading regarding details pertaining to child-proof packaging and advertising restrictions that the amendment would repeal.
“The ballot title gives an accurate description of what the proposed amendment will do—require childproof packaging and restrictions on advertising that appeals to children,” the opinion said.
“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.”
Two justices dissented in part, with one calling the ballot title “partially misleading” and another justice joining.
The Court issued an initial injunction guaranteeing that the amendment would be on the ballot, but the status of whether votes on the measure would be counted was uncertain until today’s ruling, which orders the Secretary of State to certify the proposed amendment for inclusion on the November 8 general election ballot.
Jerry Cox with the Family Council Action Committee, a group opposed to the proposal, said he doesn’t think the amendment will be beneficial to Arkansans.
“I think it’s very unfortunate for the people of Arkansas because this measure is fatally flawed,” Cox said.
Steve Lancaster, an attorney for Responsible Growth Arkansas, said he is glad to see the measure officially be certified.
“We’re really grateful to the Arkansas Supreme Court for their decision,” Lancaster said.
UPDATE: On September 23, Dr. Chris Jones, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas, issued a statement on the court’s decision.
In Arkansas, the people rule, and it is proper that Arkansans have a right to the ballot initiative process and the power to vote on statewide measures, and that their voices be heard. The ballot initiative process is one of the few important ways Arkansans get to have a seat at the table. It was through ballot initiatives that we expanded Medicare, increased minimum wage, and approved medical marijuana. At our core, we need to focus and uplift efforts that amplify voice, encourage participation, and promote democracy. Our next governor must speak up for democracy in Arkansas. It’s concerning that some have and continue to try to suppress the voice of voters, and that my opponent in the governor’s race has been completely silent on this fundamental issue of democracy. As governor, I will support the right of citizens to propose and vote on the laws of the land.
On this issue of legalization of the adult-use marijuana market in Arkansas, Arkansans’ voices will be heard on November 8! I continue to support the creation of a just and equitable cannabis industry. This initiative is a good first step toward Arkansas embracing a pragmatic cannabis policy. If approved by the majority of Arkansans, this new policy will encourage economic growth of a new business market, deliver funding to support priorities like education and community safety, equip our hard-working law enforcement to keep us safe by focusing on serious crimes, and protect consumers.Dr. Chris Jones, Democratic nominee for Governor of Arkansas, September 23 press release