LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Today, the Arkansas Supreme Court handed down its ruling clearing the way for voters to weigh in on the proposal to legalize cannabis for adults.
The proposed amendment, Responsible Growth Arkansas (RGA), has campaigned for months and received the minimum amount of signatures required to be verified by the Secretary of State's Office.
They were verified, but that wasn't the only step— the state also has to certify that the ballot title is clear enough for folks to understand what they're voting for.
State law said that job belonged to the State Board of Election Commissioners and they decided the title was not clear enough on changes to background checks and THC levels.
But when their decision was appealed to the state's highest court, it ruled that the board actually had no right to shoot down the proposal.
In the ruling, the Supreme Court emphasized, "The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November."
"We were hoping for this result and really appreciate the ruling of the Supreme Court taking a look at the issues we raised and agreeing with us that our ballot title was sufficient and the votes of the people should be counted," said Steve Lancaster, the council for RGA.
In addition to confirming that recreational marijuana will be on the ballot in November, they made another decision this evening.
Justices also declared the current process for putting issues on the ballot unconstitutional.
They proposed that the current system, where the secretary of state approves the number of signatures and an election commission signs off, will need to be reworked by the legislature.
That issue will have to be worked on next year. For now, the ballot issue to legalize marijuana will go before voters in November.
"This court decision means Arkansans will ultimately have the last say and choice to vote for Issue 4 this fall," said Eddie Armstrong, chairman of RGA.
The ruling will allow the nearly 200,000 Arkansans who recently signed the petition on this important issue to have their voices heard.
"The economic benefits to our state, increased funding for law enforcement, cancer research, and tackling our state's challenging prison overcrowding crisis by reforming our current law that safely decriminalizes cannabis," he explained.
Recent polling conducted by Arkansas Talk Business showed that almost 60% of Arkansans support responsible legalization of adult use of cannabis.
Issue 4 would allow for increased oversight, funding, and enhancements to some things Arkansans care most about— including how we provide safety and protection to our children and communities.
Issue 4 will dedicate funds to law enforcement generated by new revenues that adult-use cannabis retail sales would bring to Arkansas, and RGA looks forward to educating the state of the benefits leading up to Election Day.
"These are major strides in the right direction and will have a lasting positive impact across all sectors of Arkansas," Armstrong added.
Meanwhile, not everyone has been supportive of the ruling— such as Family Council President Jerry Cox, who described Issue 4 as a "recipe for disaster".
“Issue 4 specifically prohibits the state from requiring criminal background checks for certain marijuana business owners. It legalizes any and all products, chemicals, and derivatives made from the cannabis plant. It blocks public officials from zoning marijuana businesses or restricting marijuana use. It says point blank that state and local government cannot place additional taxes on marijuana," Cox said.
Family Council is a conservative Little Rock-based education and research organization.
"The amendment makes marijuana one of the least regulated industries in Arkansas," he added.