LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A group advocating for the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use submitted thousands of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office Friday. A lawyer for the group said he thinks an amendment will be on the ballot in November.
Responsible Growth Arkansas claimed it submitted more than 193,000 signatures. Under Arkansas law, at least slightly more than 89,000 valid signatures are required. Once they are verified, the proposed amendment goes before the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners, who will then decide whether to approve the ballot addition.
“We’re confident in our signatures and our amendment,” said Steve Lancaster, Responsible Growth Arkansas’ counsel.
The proposed amendment would limit sales only to adults 21 and older. It would limit the number of licenses to 20 cultivators and 120 dispensaries in Arkansas and prohibit advertising and packaging designed to appeal to children.
No at-home plant growth would be allowed under the amendment, Lancaster said, and it would “bring needed funds and jobs to our state,” according to a document distributed by the group.
“What we are proposing is not really out in left field,” Lancaster said.
Other advocacy groups claim Responsible Growth Arkansas is attempting to monopolize the industry. Arkansas NORML is a group collecting signatures for the 2024 ballot. Melissa Fults, NORML’s treasurer, said it is “the only people-oriented option.”
“Their [amendment] is horrible,” Fults said.
Fults said the attempt to limit cultivation and distribution to established entities is an attempt to keep money and power in their hands.
“We need the competition, and we need everyday people in [the industry], not the mega-rich,” Fults said.
Fults said the NORML amendment would expunge marijuana felony records and allow for small at-home growth for people who cannot afford to pay inflated prices.
“When you control the industry, you can set the prices to whatever you want to and make people pay it,” Fults said. “It would also destroy the medical industry we worked so hard to build.”
Fults said NORML would likely file a lawsuit against Responsible Growth Arkansas if the amendment is approved by the board. Lancaster said he anticipates challenges but does not think they will prevent ballot access.
“I think come November, we’ll pass this thing,” Lancaster said.