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Arkansas voters to determine whether or not to legalize marijuana

For the primary time in Arkansas historical past, a constitutional modification to legalize leisure marijuana in Arkansas will seem on the poll in November. 

Voters have the prospect to make Arkansas the twentieth state within the nation and second within the South (after Virginia) to legalize marijuana for adults. 

What is going to the modification do? 

Often known as the Arkansas Grownup Use Hashish Modification, the measure would amend the state structure to legalize leisure marijuana use for adults 21 and older. The measure would additionally improve the variety of dispensaries and cultivators from the present limits imposed by the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Modification handed by voters in 2016. 

Arkansas voters legalized medical marijuana that 12 months by a vote of 53.11% to 46.89% and with a successful margin in 38 of the state’s 75 counties. 

That modification allowed for a most of 40 dispensaries and eight cultivators and allowed sufferers to acquire a medical marijuana card if they’d a number of of 17 qualifying situations. 

The state Medical Marijuana Fee has issued all eight cultivation licenses and 38 of the 40 dispensary licenses. The fee is prohibited by a court docket order from issuing the remaining two dispensary licenses. 

This 12 months’s leisure marijuana modification would improve the utmost variety of cultivation amenities to twenty and improve the utmost variety of dispensaries to 120.

The eight current cultivation amenities could be granted Tier I cultivation licenses and could be allowed to domesticate as many hashish vegetation as they needed, as they’re allowed to do now beneath present medical marijuana legal guidelines. 

The extra 12 cultivation amenities will obtain Tier II licenses and would solely be allowed to domesticate as much as 250 hashish vegetation. Eddie Armstrong, chair of Accountable Development Arkansas, described these smaller cultivation amenities as being much like micro-breweries. The Tier II licenses could be awarded by a lottery system much like what the state Alcoholic Beverage Management division makes use of to award liquor licenses. 

The house owners of the 40 medical marijuana dispensary licenses could be allowed to maintain these licenses and could be granted a second dispensary license. An extra 40 licenses could be awarded by a lottery system.

The present medical dispensaries would be capable to promote to each medical and leisure customers, however the brand new dispensaries would solely be capable to promote to leisure customers, based on Accountable Development counsel Steve Lancaster. 

The modification would eradicate the taxes on medical marijuana and institute new taxes on leisure marijuana. Sufferers presently pay a 6.5% gross sales tax and a 4% privilege tax on medical marijuana purchases. Dispensaries additionally pay the 4% privilege tax after they make purchases from cultivators. 

Below the brand new modification, leisure marijuana purchases could be taxed with a ten% supplemental gross sales tax that buyers would pay on prime of current state and native taxes. The 4% privilege tax could be eradicated. 

The tax income could be earmarked for sure functions. In line with the modification, 15% of the brand new tax income would fund a stipend for licensed regulation enforcement officers, 10% would help the College of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and 5% would help drug courts, with the rest going to the state’s basic revenues. 

The modification wouldn’t enable customers to develop their very own vegetation, and it might not expunge any prior marijuana-related convictions. 

A leisure marijuana initiative that may seem on the poll in Missouri in November would expunge sure nonviolent marijuana-related convictions. A leisure marijuana initiative in Oklahoma, going through challenges on the Oklahoma Supreme Courtroom, would additionally present a pathway for the expungement of some earlier marijuana convictions. 


The modification is sponsored by Accountable Development Arkansas, an industry-backed group that has raised greater than $4 million for the reason that group was shaped a couple of 12 months in the past. 

In November, the state’s first 5 cultivators chipped in $350,000 every to kickstart the hassle. These 5 – Pure State Medicinals, Osage Creek Cultivation, BOLD Workforce, Good Day Farm Arkansas and the corporate that owns Revolution Hashish – contributed a complete of $1.75 million early on, then doubled down with extra donations within the following months. 

Lots of the state’s dispensaries chipped in as effectively. The house owners of Plant Household Therapeutics in Mountain Dwelling, The Supply dispensary in Rogers and Acanza dispensary in Fayetteville donated greater than $50,000 every, simply to call a couple of. 

An organization referred to as Ozark REA LLC of Sherwood donated $150,000 in August to extend its whole contribution to $175,000. 

Accountable Development Arkansas  is chaired by Armstrong, a former state legislator from North Little Rock who’s the CEO of Hashish Capital Group, which consults with teams eager to pursue licenses within the {industry}. 

The group is represented by a crew of attorneys from Little Rock regulation agency Wright Lindsey Jennings. That group consists of Steve Lancaster, who has been the face of the marketing campaign in current months as the hassle grew to become slowed down in authorized arguments and court docket instances. Lancaster formally filed the group’s 192,000 signatures with the secretary of state in July. The group’s most up-to-date monetary submitting with the state Ethics Fee confirmed it raised $605,000 in August.

The group’s first TV advert debuted in late August as effectively, highlighting the portion of tax income that may fund a stipend for regulation enforcement. The advert characterised the modification as “a vote to help our police” and solely talked about hashish as soon as when it mentioned the modification will “safely legalize the sale of hashish to adults 21 and older.” 

Arkansas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Chris Jones mentioned in August he helps the measure and would push for extra prison justice reforms associated to marijuana if he’s elected. Libertarian nominee Ricky Dale Harrington Jr. additionally said he helps the modification. 


The modification has loads of opposition. 

Two teams, Protected and Safe Communities and Save Arkansas from Epidemic, shaped poll query committees to oppose the modification. 

Governor Hutchinson publicly said his opposition in early August when he urged the Arkansas Municipal Police Affiliation to “stand agency” in its opposition to legalization, based on information studies. Hutchinson predicted sponsors would attempt to promote the initiative as one thing that was good for regulation enforcement earlier than Accountable Development debuted its first TV advert selling the tax income devoted to regulation enforcement. A former U.S. legal professional and the previous head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Hutchinson informed the group marijuana is a “dangerous drug,” the report mentioned. 

Protected and Safe Communities is funded by $1.25 million from Little Rock rooster magnate Ron Cameron and $750,000 from Illinois Republican megadonor Richard Uihlein. 

In September, Hutchinson reiterated his opposition to the modification in a tweet and linked to the web site of Protected and Safe Communities. Since then, Arkansas Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman have additionally made tweets towards the modification and linked to the web site of Protected and Safe Communities. 

Cameron has a historical past of donating to Hutchinson’s campaigns, courting again to a minimum of 1996, based on Open Secrets and techniques. 

Uihlein has additionally been concerned in current Arkansas campaigns, contributing greater than $2 million to a political motion committee that supported Jake Bequette in his unsuccessful try to unseat Boozman within the Republican major for the U.S. Senate in Might. 

Cameron and Uihlein additionally contributed to a political motion committee that supported Will Jones in his profitable race for prosecutor within the Sixth Judicial District (Pulaski and Perry Counties) towards Alicia Walton. Save Arkansas from Epidemic was shaped by Little Rock legal professional AJ Kelly and David Burnett, chief of police of Fairfield Bay. The group has not listed any monetary contributions however did intervene within the Supreme Courtroom case and provided an affidavit from Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to Presidents Invoice Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  

A 3rd group, Household Council Motion Committee, was shaped in August by Tom Lundstrum of Elm Springs, Jerry Cox of Little Rock, Reg Hamman of North Little Rock and Ruth Carney of Scorching Springs. The group reported its solely financial contribution is a $78,600 donation from Cameron. 

The official internet web page of state Rep. Robin Lundstrum says her husband’s identify is Tom and lists the identical P.O. Field that Tom Lundstrum listed on Household Council Motion Committee’s submitting paperwork. Cox is the founder and president of Household Council, a conservative lobbying group that its web site says promotes “conventional household values” which can be “mirrored within the bible.” Carney was elected mayor of Scorching Springs in 2014 and served till she resigned in 2017. 

Marijuana advocates in opposition 

In an uncommon twist, two outspoken opponents of the legalization effort are two of the state’s most distinguished advocates for marijuana: David Sofa and Melissa Fults. 

Sofa wrote the medical marijuana modification that voters authorised in 2016, however he doesn’t help the Accountable Development modification that he believes is just too favorable to the {industry}. 

Sofa summarized his opposition succinctly. 

“In easy layman’s phrases, it’s an try by the present licensees to monopolize the marijuana marketplace for their very own advantages and could be detrimental to customers and sufferers. Interval,” Sofa mentioned. 

Sofa’s greatest grievance is that whereas the modification provides 12 new cultivators, these cultivators might be so restricted in what they’ll produce that they received’t even be capable to start to compete with current growers.

The addition of 12 new Tier 2 cultivation licenses is “misleading,” he mentioned, as a result of these growers could be restricted to rising 250 vegetation. Sofa estimated that all the Tier 2 cultivators mixed wouldn’t be equal to one of many current cultivators as a result of he estimated that all the current cultivators are rising greater than 3,000 vegetation.  

“I name that eye sweet,” he mentioned. “They crafted this whole modification to make it seem as if it was considerably honest when, actually, it isn’t,” he mentioned. 

Fults, a longtime marijuana advocate, sponsored a separate modification this 12 months however didn’t garner any monetary contributions and dropped the hassle earlier than the signature deadline. 

Fults mentioned she’s going to work to place a leisure marijuana modification on the 2024 poll if the Accountable Development measure is defeated by the voters. 

If the measure passes, it will likely be just about unimaginable to vary, she mentioned, as a result of it’s unlikely an effort may come along with sufficient funding to make a change to the constitutional modification. 

Fults expressed concern that medical marijuana sufferers might be left behind beneath the Accountable Development plan. She mentioned she fears there wouldn’t be sufficient cultivators to produce the variety of customers, which she estimated at 300,000. Fults mentioned she can also be involved cultivators will give attention to producing merchandise with excessive THC and never on producing decrease THC merchandise that may be extra appropriate for some sufferers. 

However, for a marijuana advocate, isn’t some type of legalization higher than none?

“One thing isn’t all the time higher than nothing,” she mentioned. “That is worse than nothing.” 

Fults mentioned an activist like herself could be higher certified to put in writing a leisure marijuana modification than enterprise house owners within the {industry}.  

“An activist, I feel, is healthier certified to put in writing an modification that’s good for everybody within the state than somebody who’s writing it for greed,” she mentioned. 

A current ballot suggests the measure has an excellent likelihood of passing. A ballot of 835 probably voters performed this month by Discuss Enterprise & Politics and Hendrix School discovered that 58.5% of voters help the modification and 29% oppose it. The share of voters who help the measure grew from a earlier ballot in February that discovered 53% of voters in help.    


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