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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Recreational Use of Marijuana Proposed for 2020 Ballot Question

(LITTLE ROCK)  Proponents of individuals seeking to legalize Marijuana in Arkansas has filed a second 2020 ballot initiative was filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State this week.

Arkansas True Grass — a cannabis advocacy group — submitted the proposed constitutional amendment,

“The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2020,” which would legalize the use of the drug and expunge any previous criminal convictions under the Arkansas Controlled Substances Act that were solely related to marijuana.

Another advocacy group — the Drug Policy Education Group, whose Executive Director is Melissa Fults, has already filed a pair of proposed amendments with nearly identical goals.

Whether one or both initiatives are combined into one question or not, may or may not be determined by the Secretary of State’s office.

Both groups’ proposals seek to legalize marijuana and expunge past criminal offenses; the difference, though, lies in the regulatory framework established by each.

The Drug Policy Education Group split legalized recreational use of marijuana and conviction expungement in separate proposals.

William Barger, a retired Arkansas National Guard member from Little Rock, submitted the latest proposed amendment on behalf of Arkansas True Grass.

Barger stated that both groups’ efforts have been coming together for some time. He said Marijuana legalization would have positive, widespread effects.

If legalized, Arkansas would be the 12th state in the United States, and the first Southern state, in which cannabis could be used legally for recreational purposes.

In the past four years, 10 states have passed expungement measures similar to those included in the proposals, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has already said he opposes legalizing cannabis beyond medical purposes, and some conservative groups have announced opposition to the measures.

Voters approved Amendment 98 to the Arkansas Constitution in 2016, which legalized marijuana use for 18 qualifying medical conditions.

That program is only just now getting off the ground as five dispensaries have opened to qualified patients. The state ultimately will have 32 dispensaries and five cultivation centers.

Barger’s and Fults’ groups both still have several hurdles before their proposals are certified to appear on the Nov. 3, 2020, ballot.

Both groups must gather the signatures of at least 89,151 registered voters for each proposal. Then, the state Board of Election Commissioners must certify the ballot measures.

This is the first election cycle under this new certification process after the General Assembly changed the law earlier this year. In previous cycles, before backers could begin gathering signatures, the state Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, would review the ballot title and popular name to ensure it accurately and clearly conveyed the initiative.

The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2020, filed by Arkansas True Grass, proposed a more lax regulatory environment than that provided in the Drug Policy Education Group’s Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.

The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment would legalize cannabis “as an intoxicant for the purpose of adult enjoyment or pleasure” for those older than 21. It would give regulatory authority to the Arkansas Agriculture Department and the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, which regulates medical marijuana.

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