Group plans ballot attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas

Sol Sisters Farms / Photo: Oregon Department of Agriculture

An Arkansas group this week announced plans to file two ballot petitions that would legalize recreational marijuana and allow low-level cannabis offenders to seek expungement of their convictions.

The Drug Policy Education Group on Wednesday released the language of the proposed constitutional amendments on the organization’s website. Once filed, the group can begin gathering signatures for the 2020 ballot.

The nonprofit advocacy and education group has in the past worked on two attempted petition drives for medical marijuana use in Arkansas.

“Other states have seen better, safer outcomes by removing the black market elements created by the illegal sale of cannabis,” said Melissa Fults, the group’s executive director, in a statement. “The truth is that cannabis is safer than alcohol while prohibition is ineffective and racially biased. It has done far more harm in our community than cannabis.”

Under current law, a constitutional amendment requires signatures from 10% of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election. That means the group will need nearly 90,000 signatures.

State voters in 2016 approved legalized marijuana use for 18 qualifying medical conditions. If the new proposal is approved, Arkansas would be the 12th state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana use.

The group describes the amendments as follow:

Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment

This amendment would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults for personal use in Arkansas.

It would authorize the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Division to issue licenses to cultivation facilities and to dispensaries to sell marijuana to adults 21 years of age and older beginning Dec. 4, 2020. The division would also establish the rules for issuance of licenses by lottery.

Licenses for dispensaries would be allowed in all counties, but cultivation facilities would be limited to one per 250,000 residents statewide. All commercial marijuana establishments would have to be located at least 1,000 feet from schools or churches.

Tax revenue from sales would first be used to operate the program, with excess funds directed as follows: 60% would fund and operate public pre-kindergarten and after school programs and 40% would fund the operations of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

City’s and counties could hold special elections to prohibit commercial marijuana retail sales if voters approve a measure.

Under the proposal, residents would be allowed to possess up to 4 ounces of marijuana plants, 2 ounces of cannabis concentrate, and edibles with THC content of 200 mg or less.

Finally, home cultivation would be allowed for up to six seedlings and six mature plants on the grower’s personal residential property or with written permission of the property owner.

» Read the proposed AAUCA amendment

Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment

This amendment would allow people convicted of possession, cultivation, manufacture, distribution or sale of less than 16 ounces of marijuana, six or fewer mature cannabis plants or cannabis paraphernalia to petition a court for release from incarceration, reduction of sentence, expungement of the conviction and/or restoration of rights. It would also authorize the creation of a dedicated court for this purpose.

» Read the proposed AMEA amendment