Arkansas Voters Reject Adult-Use Cannabis Bill

Voters Tuesday rejected Issue 4, a measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis, to the dismay of Arkansas cannabis advocates who worked hard to push the bill forward. 

Led by Responsible Growth Arkansas, advocates promoted the approval of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution which would have authorized the possession, personal use, and consumption of cannabis by adults 21 and over, as well as the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities.

The bill would have authorized licensed dispensaries to sell cannabis produced by licensed medical and adult-use cultivation facilities, including cannabis produced under Amendment 98, beginning on March 8, 2023.

Critics of the bill said it lacked expungement provisions and that it didn’t allow for home growing. And as a constitutional amendment, it would be difficult to make those changes further down the line. Even longtime cannabis advocates in the state opposed the bill because of these omissions.

From the get-go, Issue 4 faced challenges in a state that typically votes conservative. First, state officials, including Arkansas’ secretary of state, challenged the validity of the measure, which would be an amendment to the state’s constitution. Advocates submitted more than enough valid signatures for the proposal to qualify for the ballot, but the state Board of Election Commissioners rejected the measure, explaining that the ballot title did not adequately explain the amendment to voters.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson held a joint press briefing October 31 at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock, joining insurance, construction, truckers, and agriculture officials to speak out against Issue 4.

“This puts us at a disadvantage in [the] recruiting industry if Issue 4 passes,” Hutchinson said, citing how workplace drug testing would be impacted.

Opponents of the bill pointed out that it does not expunge criminal records, nor does it allow for home growing. And if passed, the amendment cannot be altered by the Arkansas State Legislature. For now, only medical cannabis is legal in Arkansas under Amendment 98.

The post Arkansas Voters Reject Adult-Use Cannabis Bill appeared first on High Times.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Slams Cannabis Industry, Says It Targets ‘Gullible’ People

In a series of videos, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee warned that legalizing adult-use cannabis in Arkansas will help drug cartels and that the cannabis industry will “make a buck off of gullible people.” The videos were released as voters gear up to choose the state’s next governor and whether to legalize pot.

The videos—full of misleading and factually incorrect notions—warn about the dangers of pot. In the first video, Huckabee looks at the camera directly and expresses why he opposes legalization. In the second video, Huckabee’s video begins with images of homeless people, drug addicts, and syringes littered on the streets.

The videos were posted on the website of Family Council Action Committee—one of three groups joining together in a coalition to oppose Issue 4, the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.

“Unfortunately, you aren’t the one who is going to be making the money, drug cartels will,” Huckabee said in the video.

“And if you are one of those people that can sell the drug, maybe you’ll make a buck off of the gullible people who will somehow convince themselves this is absolutely harmless,” Huckabee added.

“Southern Baptist ministries in Arkansas have worked for decades to help people overcome addiction and substance abuse. Issue 4 undermines those addiction recovery programs,” Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox said in an October 14 press release. “Some people will tell you that marijuana isn’t any more harmful than alcohol. That might have been true ten or twelve years ago, but it doesn’t seem to be true any more. High potency marijuana is the norm in states like Colorado and California, and Issue 4 legalizes THC extracts that are even more potent than a typical marijuana plant. Those drugs will hurt a lot of people. That’s just another reason why Arkansans should vote against Issue 4 this November.”

Arkansas’s road to legalization has been rocky to say the least.

On August 3, The State Board of Election Commissioners (SBEC) denied certification of Issue 4 to legalize adult-use cannabis, citing concerns about sufficient background checks for dispensary owners and limits on THC. The SBEC review is part of a new process for ballot petitions.

Then on September 22, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the SBEC’s decision to deny certification of the constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana use for adults. In a 5-2 opinion, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the panel’s concerns about ballot sufficiency. Justices Shawn Womack and Barbara Webb dissented.

“With these standards in mind, we conclude that the ballot title at issue is complete enough to convey an intelligible idea of the scope and import of the proposed amendment,” Associate Justice Robin Wynne wrote in the majority opinion. “Therefore, Respondents and Intervenors have not met their burden of proving that the ballot title is insufficient. The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November. Accordingly, we grant the petition and order the Secretary of State to certify the proposed amendment for inclusion on the November 8, 2022 general election ballot.”

Huckabee criticized the opinion. “[The justices] surely are intelligent people and they know the only people to really benefit from this, other than those who are going to be selling it at a high price and making a lot of money, are going to be the people who maybe sell snack foods to satisfy the munchies for people who are engaged in the use of recreational marijuana,” Huckabee said. While Huckabee blamed the justices, they don’t necessarily agree with bills they approve or reject.

Ironically, some Arkansans who are part of the cannabis industry there contributed to Huckabee’s campaigns. Arkansas Cannabiz identified over $50,000 in contributions from people currently working in the Arkansas cannabis industry who have contributed to Sanders’ campaign.

Huckabee’s daughter and former  White House Press Secretary for President Trump Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who also opposes Issue 4, is on the ballot this November. The latest polling indicates that she has an 11-point lead over Democrat Chris Jones with seven percent of people who said they are undecided in the race.

The post Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Slams Cannabis Industry, Says It Targets ‘Gullible’ People appeared first on High Times.