Arkansas’ secretary of state said on Tuesday that a proposed measure to legalize recreational cannabis in the state is not up to snuff in order to qualify for this year’s ballot.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports that Secretary of State John Thurston said “Tuesday in a declaration to the Arkansas Supreme Court the proposed constitutional amendment is insufficient because the State Board of Election Commissioners did not certify the ballot title and popular name.”
A spokesman for Thurston told the Democrat Gazette “he expects the declaration to be filed Tuesday with the state Supreme Court,” and that “the secretary of state’s office believes the declaration is a formality that the state Supreme Court is going through and doesn’t believe the declaration will be the final decision on the recreational marijuana issue.”
On Monday, the state Supreme Court “handed down a per curiam opinion that stated the court had issued a writ of mandamus to the secretary of state’s office to decide the sufficiency of the proposed initiative petition,” the Democrat Gazette reported.
The declaration from the secretary of state represents the latest development in what has become a protracted battle over the legalization proposal.
Last month, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that the measure will indeed appear on this fall’s ballot in the state––but the votes may not actually be counted.
The Fort Smith Times Record reports that the high court’s decision on whether or not the votes will count “could be decided as soon as Thursday.”
The advocacy group behind the proposal, Responsible Growth Arkansas, filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court last month after the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners rejected its name and title.
In July, the group submitted almost thousands of signatures to the Board of Election Commissioners, which rejected the proposal, saying that the title did not adequately explain what the measure would do if it were passed.
The Associated Press reported that commissioners “said they were concerned that the amendment would repeal the state’s current limit under its medical marijuana amendment on how much THC is allowed in edible marijuana products.”
“The type of detail that the board expected, or demanded in this case, would make our ballot title thousands and thousands of words long,” Responsible Growth Arkansas attorney Steven Lancaster said last month. “That just simply is not workable for a ballot.”
“You’re going to see the Responsible Growth Arkansas measure on your ballot. You’ll be able to cast a vote,” Lancaster said last month, as quoted by local station 4029 News. “But what’s going to happen in the interim is the Supreme Court will make its decision, and if they agree with us that our ballot title is good, then the votes will count. Otherwise, if the court decides that our ballot title is not sufficient, they’ll just never count those votes.”
“I’m confident that once the court looks at this, they’re going to agree with us that our ballot title is fine,” Lancaster added. “So I’m, again, confident that … votes are going to count in November.”
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported this week that “Lancaster said he remains confident the court will rule to keep the recreational marijuana issue on the ballot.”
Should the votes count in November, there is good reason to think that legalization is coming to Arkansas.
A poll conducted earlier this year found that a majority of registered voters in the state––53.5%––think that weed should be legal for adults aged 21 and older, while 32% said cannabis should only be legal for medical reasons and 10.5% said that it should be broadly illegal for any reason.