The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday that voters can decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana, overturning a state panel’s decision to block the measure for the November ballot.
The judges granted the request for Responsible Growth Arkansasthe group behind the proposal, to certify the measure for the November ballot.
“The people will decide whether or not to approve the proposed amendment in November,” Judge Robin Wynne wrote in the court’s decision.
The group behind the proposal appealed after the state Board of Election Commissioners blocked the initiative in August. Supporters submitted more valid signatures from registered voters to qualify, but the proposal still needed council approval to appear on the ballot.
“We are extremely grateful to the Supreme Court for agreeing with us and considering it a complete validation of everything we have done,” said Steve Lancaster, a lawyer. of Responsible Growth Arkansas. “We are excited and heading into November.”
Because the deadline for certifying initiative titles has passed, the court had allowed the measure on the general election ballot while it decides whether votes will be counted.
Arkansas voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 legalizing cannabis for medical use. The proposed amendment allows people 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of cannabis (28 grams) and authorizes state-licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis for medical use.
The Board of Election Commissioners rejected the measure after commissioners said they did not believe the title of the ballot fully explained to voters the impact of the amendment. Proponents of the measure argued that the council’s criticism went beyond what was required for ballot initiatives.
The judges rejected the council’s arguments to deny the measure, but the court also struck down the 2019 law that empowered the council to certify ballot measures. Prior to this law, ballot measures had to be reviewed by the Attorney General before petitions could circulate.
Two conservative justices agreed the committee lacked the power to reject the proposal, but said the Republican secretary of state in Arkansas also correctly ruled the proposal insufficient for the US ballot. State.
“The title of the proposed ballot is not comprehensive enough to reveal the scope of the proposed amendment nor free from misleading omissions regarding child protection issues,” Justice Shawn Womack wrote in a separate opinion. .
A spokesman said Secretary of State John Thurston, who chairs the board of election commissioners, had no comment on the decision.
Cannabis is already legal in 19 US states, and legalization proposals are up for vote this fall in South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri and Maryland. The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a proposal in that state will not appear on the ballot in November.
Responsible Growth Arkansas raised more than $4 million to support Arkansas’ measure, mostly from medical cannabis companies. Safe and Secure Communitiesa group formed to oppose the measure, raised more than $2 million from an Arkansas poultry industry executive and an Illinois shipping industry executive who supported Republican candidates.
the Family Councilanother group campaigning against the measure, on Thursday called the legalization proposal a “recipe for disaster.”
Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, former Chief of Drug Enforcement Administration federal government, which opposed the proposal, did not immediately comment on the decision.