Arkansas Marijuana Campaign Files Lawsuit To Put Legalization Measure On Ballot After State Board’s Rejection | Big Indy News
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Arkansas Marijuana Campaign Files Lawsuit To Put Legalization Measure On Ballot After State Board’s Rejection

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Arkansas activists on Thursday filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court, seeking to secure ballot access for their proposed legalization initiative. The legal action comes a day after the state Board of Election Commissioners ruled that the measure’s ballot title and popular name are misleading.

Last week, the secretary of state had certified that Responsible Growth Arkansas collected enough valid signatures from registered voters to qualify the proposal for the ballot.

The campaign’s new lawsuit accuses the election commissioners board, members of which raised concerns about possible voter confusion over language related to issues such as THC limits, of “thwarting of the will of the people and their right to adopt laws by initiative.”

“That ‘power lies at the heart of our democratic institutions,’” it says. “The Board has attacked that heart through its incorrect rejection of the ballot title.”

The suit says officials violated the state constitution and ignored prior Supreme Court precedent, “choosing instead to apply an overly stringent approach that denied the wishes of hundreds of thousands of Arkansans to have the opportunity to vote on the Amendment.”

The campaign also filed a motion for expedited consideration of the lawsuit, as the November election is just three months away and ballots need to be printed ahead of time. The secretary of state’s deadline to certify amendments for the ballot to county officials is on August 25.

Earlier this week, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)—a former Drug Enforcement Administration head—suggested it was a given that the measure would end up before voters and urged police to help campaign against it.

Should they prevail in court in qualifying the measure, activists say they feel confident that voters will approve it this November, especially considering how the campaign was able to gather more than double the required signatures for ballot placement.

Here’s what the campaign’s marijuana legalization initiative would accomplish: 

-Adults 21 and older could purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis from licensed retailers.

-Home cultivation would not be allowed.

-The measure would make a series of changes to the state’s existing medical cannabis program that was approved by voters in 2016, including a repeal of residency requirements to qualify as a patient in the state.

-The state Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would be responsible for regulating the program and issuing cannabis business licenses.

-Regulators would need to license existing medical cannabis dispensaries to also serve adult consumers, and also permit them to open another retail location for recreational marijuana sales only. A lottery system would award licenses for 40 additional adult-use retailers.

-There are no provisions to expunge or seal past criminal records for marijuana or to provide specific social equity licensing opportunities for people from communities harmed by the war on drugs.

-The state could impose up to a 10 percent supplemental tax on recreational cannabis sales, in addition to the existing state and local sales tax.

-Tax revenue would be divided up between law enforcement (15 percent), the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (10 percent) and the state drug court program (five percent). The remaining revenue would go to the state general fund.

-People who own less than five percent of a marijuana businesses would no longer be subject to background checks.

-The legislature could not repeal of amend the state’s medical marijuana statutes without voter approval.

-Local governments could hold elections to prohibit adult-use retailers in their jurisdiction if voters approve the decision.

-Individuals could now own stake in more than 18 dispensaries.

-There would be advertising and packaging restrictions, including a requirement that marijuana products must be sold in tamper-resistant packages.

-Dispensaries would be able to cultivate and store up to 100 seedings, instead of 50 as prescribed under the current medical cannabis law.

A former Arkansas Democratic House minority leader, Eddie Armstrong, is behind the Responsible Growth Arkansas constitutional amendment, which he filed in January.

The group is just one of several campaigns that have pursued cannabis reform through the ballot this year, though backers of competing initiatives have since acknowledged they wouldn’t be able to collect enough signatures to qualify this year.


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Supporters of the separate campaigns, Arkansas True Grass and Arkansans for Marijuana Reform, have raised concerns with the provisions of the Responsible Growth Arkansas initiative, suggesting it would favor big businesses in the existing medical cannabis industry. Some have said they may look to 2024 to try again with their own approaches.

Stephen Lancaster, a spokesperson for Responsible Growth Arkansas, previously told Marijuana Moment that the campaign hopes that won’t be necessary. His campaign feels that the constitutional amendment provides a sound infrastructure for reform that prioritizes regulations—and the plan is to push for further reforms in the legislature if voters approve legalization at the polls. That would include efforts to promote expungements, which isn’t addressed by the initiative.

Meanwhile, a poll released in February found that 54 percent of Arkansans favor full adult-use legalization, compared to 32 percent who said it should be legal for medical use only and just around 11 percent who said it should be outright illegal.

Arkansas is also not the only state where voters may see drug policy reform measures on their November ballots:

Colorado voters will have the chance to decide on a historic ballot initiative this November to legalize psychedelics and create licensed psilocybin “healing centers” where people can use the substance for therapeutic purposes.

In May, South Dakota officials certified that activists turned in a sufficient number of signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization measure for the November ballot.

Maryland lawmakers passed legislation this year, which the governor allowed to go into effect without his signature, that will put the issue of cannabis legalization before voters this November.

North Dakota activists turned in what they believe to be enough signatures to place a marijuana legalization initiative before voters.

Oklahoma activists also said they’ve submitted what they believe to be more than enough signatures to qualify a marijuana legalization initiative for the November ballot.

Nebraska advocates recently submitted signatures for a pair of medical cannabis legalization initiatives. The campaign has faced several challenges along the way, including the loss of critical funding after a key donor passed away and a court battle of the state’s geographic requirements for ballot petitions.

A campaign to put cannabis legalization on the Missouri ballot may be in jeopardy, as early reporting shows that activists are coming up short on the required signatures in key districts.

An initiative to legalize marijuana will not appear on Ohio’s November ballot, the campaign behind the measure announced in May. But activists did reach a settlement with state officials in a legal challenge that will give them a chance to hit the ground running in 2023.

Michigan activists announced in June that they will no longer be pursuing a statewide psychedelics legalization ballot initiative for this year’s election and will instead focus on qualifying the measure to go before voters in 2024.

The campaign behind an effort to decriminalize drugs and expand treatment and recovery services in Washington State said in June that it has halted its push to qualify an initiative for November’s ballot.

While Wyoming activists said earlier this year that they made solid progress in collecting signatures for a pair of ballot initiatives to decriminalize marijuana possession and legalize medical cannabis, they didn’t get enough to make the 2022 ballot deadline and will be aiming for 2024 while simultaneously pushing the legislature to advance reform even sooner.

In March, California activists announced that they came up short on collecting enough signatures to qualify a measure to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for the state’s November ballot, though they aren’t giving up on a future election cycle bid.

Meanwhile, there are various local reforms that activists want to see voters decide on this November—including local marijuana decriminalization ordinances in Ohio, West Virginia and Texas.

Lawmakers Push Biden To Help Another Medical Marijuana Patient In Russia As Griner’s Case Gets Attention

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Young Americans Are Twice As Likely To Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes, New Gallup Data Shows

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Young people are now more than twice as likely to report smoking marijuana compared to cigarettes, according to a new analysis of survey data from Gallup.

Past-week cigarette smoking by adults 18-29 declined from 15 percent in 2016-2018 to a new low of 12 percent in 2019-2022.

Meanwhile, 26 percent of adults in that age group now say that they smoke cannabis, compared to 21 percent in the earlier survey period.

Overall, the 2019-2022 data shows that 27 percent of Americans smoke cigarettes, marijuana or e-cigarettes. Gallup found that seven percent smoke cannabis alone, nine percent smoke cigarettes alone and three percent smoke e-cigarettes alone.

But it’s the youngest generation that is most strongly opting for cannabis over cigarettes—a trend that could be attributed to any number of factors, including public education campaigns about the dangers of tobacco and the decreased public perception of harm around marijuana.

It’s also possible that people generally feel more willing to openly report smoking cannabis amid the state-level legalization movement and congressional efforts to end prohibition, aside from the amount of actual change in use patterns.

People in the 18-29 age category are the most likely to smoke or vape something, at 40 percent. But almost four times as many young people smoke only marijuana (11 percent) as they do only cigarettes (three percent).

In contrast, people in the 30-49 age group were slightly more likely to say they exclusively smoked cigarettes in the past week (11 percent) than those who only smoked cannabis (eight percent).

Gallup separately released a data analysis in August that found, for the first time, that more Americans openly admitted to smoking marijuana or eating cannabis-infused edibles than those who said they’ve smoked cigarettes in the past week.

While that survey didn’t include an age-based demographic breakdown, Gallup did release data in 2019 that showed young people were more likely to smoke marijuana than cigarettes. And compared to the new poll, the gap in the use of those substances among young people has increased.

“Public health officials would be encouraged by the steep decline in cigarette smoking over the past two decades, a trend driven largely by plummeting smoking rates among young adults,” Gallup said. “But young adults are increasingly smoking marijuana, perhaps because it is now legal to use in a growing number of states, and vaping. Both vaping and marijuana are more common activities for young adults than traditional cigarette smoking.”

“Still, fewer young adults smoke or vape today than smoked cigarettes two decades ago, before e-cigarettes became widely available. And although many health researchers believe vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes, they do not believe e-cigarettes are safe in general. Further, the long-term health effects of vaping are not as well-known, and the Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to try to limit marketing of vaping to minors.”

It should be pointed out that the individual language of Gallup’s questions about cigarettes, e-cigarettes and marijuana are distinct in that the cigarette question asks about “past-week” usage, whereas the cannabis question is more general, without a timeline.

Additionally, respondents were asked about “smoking” marijuana, which would potentially exclude a significant portion of the cannabis-consuming population that uses edibles, vapes or other non-combustible products.

This dataset—which involved interviews with 3,545 adults for the 2019-2022 results, with a margin of error ranging from 4-5 percentage points—was released on the heels of Gallup’s broader annual survey that includes questions about drug consumption trends.

That poll found that seven in 10 Americans say that marijuana should be legalized—including majorities of all political parties and age demographics.

The findings and demographic trends from the survey are generally consistent with recent polling on the issue, including one that showed just one in ten Americans say that marijuana should remain completely illegal.

Another recent survey that was commissioned by Fox News and the Associated Press and conducted in the lead-up to the election found 63 percent support for legalization nationwide.

Interestingly, that survey also found majority support for ending prohibition among voters in two states that rejected legalization initiatives last week, signaling that the measures might have failed in part because of disagreements about specific provisions rather than the basic concept of legalization.

A poll released last month also shows that a majority of Americans are in favor of President Joe Biden’s decision to grant pardons to people who’ve committed federal marijuana possession offenses, and most also want to see their own governors follow suit with state-level cannabis relief.

Meanwhile, the same young adults who are most likely to report smoking marijuana compared to cigarettes are also the most likely to say that the plant should be legalized, indicating that the trend will continue.

In August, Gallup separately released data showing that more than twice as many Americans think that cannabis has a positive impact on its consumers and society at large than say the same about alcohol.

That’s generally consistent with the results of a separate poll released in March that found more Americans think it’d be good if people switched to cannabis and drank less alcohol compared to those who think the substance substitution would be bad.

Interestingly, a 2020 Gallup survey separately showed that 86 percent of Americans view alcohol use as morally acceptable, compared to 70 percent who said the same about marijuana consumption.

Texas Activists Fight Back After Local Lawmakers Undermine Voter-Approved Marijuana Decriminalization Measures



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Texas Activists Fight Back After Local Lawmakers Undermine Voter-Approved Marijuana Decriminalization Measures

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Texas officials in several cities have moved to overturn or undercut local marijuana decriminalization ordinances that voters overwhelmingly approved at the ballot this month—but activists aren’t going down without a fight.

Five cities passed the decriminalization ballot measures with strong margins on November 8, but city councils and officials in at least three of those localities are facing criticism from advocates over their attempts to undermine the reforms. In Harker Heights, for example, the city council voted last week to repeal the ordinance altogether.

Ground Game Texas, the campaign that spearheaded the decriminalization ordinances, says it is planning to collect signatures for another local referendum to go before voters during Harker Heights’s next election that would effectively repeal the repeal.

In Denton, meanwhile, local officials haven’t pursued an outright repeal of the reform measure that voters approved there, but they have challenged key provisions, saying that the city isn’t authorized to direct police to make the prescribed policy changes. However, the mayor and city manager have said that low-level cannabis offenses will continue to be treated as low law enforcement priorities.

The Killeen City Council decided to press pause on implementing the local voter-approved decriminalization ordinance, arguing that there are legal concerns that lawmakers need to sort through before potentially giving it their approval.

One councilmember, Jose Segarra, said that he took particular issue with provision of the reform measure preventing police from using the odor of marijuana alone as the basis for a search, and he suggested that the local government could amend the ordinance to eliminate that language.

So far, the two other Texas cities that passed decriminalization measures this month—Elgin and San Marcos—have not raised legislative or legal objections. But advocates aren’t planning to cede any of the victories.

Since the Harker Heights City Council has already approved a resolution to repeal the ordinance, there’s particular urgency for advocates to take responsive action, which is shaping up to look like a secondary referendum for the May 2023 ballot.

“Everything is in city charter,” Louie Minor, a Bell County commissioner-elect who worked on the Harker Heights and Killeen cannabis decriminalization campaigns, told The Killeen Daily Journal. “A referendum would mean going out and getting signatures. We have a very short time period, though. The citizens would vote on repealing the ordinance that repealed Proposition A.”

In Denton, when local officials first suggested earlier this month that they weren’t comfortable fully implementing the voter-approved cannabis decriminalization measure, Ground Game Texas pushed back by issuing a legal memo.

“The voters of Denton have spoken. By an overwhelming margin, they passed an initiative to prioritize scarce public safety initiatives for important needs that serve Denton, rather than wasteful enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses,” Mike Siegel, a co-founder of the group, said. “City staff do not have the authority to disregard election results and usurp the will of the voters. We hope and expect that officials in positions of public trust will fulfill the will of the voters they serve and ensure that Proposition B is duly enforced immediately.”

The Denton City Council has since voted 6-0 to accept the results of the election.

The reform measures might be new to the cities where lawmakers are raising concerns, but they’re not without precedent in the Lone Star state. Austin voters, for example, strongly approved a marijuana decriminalization measure this past May—and it doesn’t appear that the city has grappled with any major legal battles over the modest policy change.

Meanwhile, San Antonio, the second largest Texas city by population, could get the chance to locally decriminalize marijuana in May 2023 after activists announced last month that they were launching a signature drive for ballot placement.

While there’s been a surge of local action on marijuana issues under home rule laws in Texas over recent years, statewide reform has generally stalled in the conservative legislature.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session Lawmakers have since been unable to pass additional expansive cannabis bills in recent sessions.

For his part, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that he doesn’t believe people should be incarcerated over low-level marijuana possession. However, the governor incorrectly suggested that lawmakers have already adopted the policy statewide.

A poll released last year found that a strong majority of Texans—including most Republicans—support even broader reform to legalize marijuana for adult use. Another survey found that 60 percent of voters in the state support making cannabis legal “for any use” and about nine in ten voters think marijuana should be legalized for some purpose.

Additionally, a poll released in June found that cannabis legalization is more popular in Texas than the state’s top elected officials and President Joe Biden.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said in September that he will work to enact criminal justice reform in the 2023 session, and he again expressed support for lowering penalties for marijuana possession.


Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,500 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D), who was the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in Texas this year, has long advocated for an end to marijuana prohibition and included the reform as a tenet of his campaign. But he ultimately lost the race to Abbott.

There were some drug policy reforms that did advance in the legislature during last year’s session, but not necessarily at the pace that advocates had hoped to see.

A bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and another to require a study into the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans were enacted.

The Texas Republican Party adopted a platform plank endorsing decriminalization of marijuana possession in 2018, but that was later rescinded.

Separately, the state Supreme Court heard testimony in March in a case concerning the state’s ban on manufacturing smokable hemp products—the latest development in a drawn-out legal battle on the policy first proposed and challenged in 2020.

In San Antonio, activists will need to collect at least 20,000 valid signatures from registered voters by early January to qualify for the May 2023 ballot. The groups said they plan to submit a minimum of 35,000 signatures.

Colombian And Mexican Presidents Announce International Effort To Reshape Drug Policy, Condemning ‘Failure’ Of Prohibition



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Colombian And Mexican Presidents Announce International Effort To Reshape Drug Policy, Condemning ‘Failure’ Of Prohibition

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The presidents of Colombia and Mexico announced that they will be bringing together other Latin American leaders for an international conference focused on on “redesigning and rethinking drug policy” given the “failure” of prohibition.

As lawmakers in both countries work to advance marijuana legalization, Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said in a joint statement on Friday that they recently met to discuss “geopolitical, commercial, cultural and development cooperation” in their bilateral relationship.

Part of that effort will involve collaborating with the broader international community to forge a new path on the drug policy front—a topic that Petro has frequently discussed since taking office earlier this year.

“Recognizing the failure of the fight against drugs and the vulnerability of our peoples in the face of this problem, Mexico and Colombia will convene an International Conference of Latin American leaders with the objective of redesigning and rethinking drug policy,” the counties announced in a joint statement following Petro’s visit to Mexico last week, according to a translation.

It is one of more than a dozen priorities for the “bilateral agenda” outlined by the presidents.

While the statement is light on specifics, the reference to the “failure” of the drug war—as well as both presidents’ past comments on the need for reform—signals that the international discussions will largely center on moving away from a criminalization model for drugs.

 

Petro said that the international cooperation on a way forward from the war on drugs is important, “given the levels of violence that the current policy has unleashed, especially in the American continent.”

“We are killing each other,” the Colombian president said in a statement ahead of his meetings with López Obrador. “And it is the product of prohibition.”

Petro has been especially outspoken about the issue since winning the presidency. For example, he delivered a speech at a meeting of the United Nations (UN) in September, urging member nations to fundamentally change their approaches to drug policy and disband with prohibition.

He also recently talked about the prospects of legalizing marijuana in Colombia as one means of reducing the influence of the illicit market. And he signaled that the policy change should be followed by releasing people who are currently in prison over cannabis.

To that end, Colombian senators approved a cannabis legalization bill in committee last week, following its advancement in the country’s Chamber of Representatives.

Prior to the Senate action, Colombian Justice Minister Néstor Osuna said at a public hearing that the country has been the victim of “a failed war that was designed 50 years ago and, due to absurd prohibitionism, has brought us a lot of blood, armed conflict, mafias and crime.”

Meanwhile, a U.S. congressional delegation returned from a visit to Colombia last month, and a congressman who was part of the trip told Marijuana Moment that one theme of his discussions with officials in the country was that the world has “lost the war on drugs.”

In Mexico, a top Senate official recently said that she’s heard from a colleague who visited leaders in several Latin American countries, and they’re consistently asking about the status of Mexico’s efforts to legislatively end prohibition and set up a regulated marijuana market.

Separately, Mexican Sen. Patricia Mercado noted the new joint drug reform commitment made by her country’s president and the president of Colombia, saying that policy can be transformed, including by legalizing cannabis, “if there is political will.”

The country’s Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the prohibition on cannabis possession and cultivation for personal use is unconstitutional.

Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal, an advocate for reform, said in August that enacting regulations for cannabis will (again) be among the top legislative priorities of Congress in the new session.

It’s been about four years since the nation’s highest court deemed prohibition unconstitutional, leaving it up to Congress to follow up with a policy change, accordingly. But lawmakers have so far been unable to reach a consensus on legislation to put in place regulations for a cannabis program.

At the request of legislators, the court agreed to extend its deadline for Congress to formally end prohibition on multiple occasions. But because of the repeated failed attempts to meet those deadlines< , justices  ultimately voted to end criminalization on their own last year.

Mexico’s president said in late 2020 that a vote on legalization legislation was delayed due to minor “mistakes” in the proposal.

While the new joint statement from both country leaders talked about convening a conference for Latin American nations, it’s likely that the conversation will also take into account developments in the U.S., where President Joe Biden recently issued a mass marijuana pardon and directed a scheduling review.

U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) cheered the official swearing in of Petro in August, saying that he looks forward to “working together to…rethink drug policy, and much more.”

A top Mexican senator separately said last year that “there is no longer room for the prohibitionist policy. ” And she also said that the influence of the U.S .is to blame for failed marijuana criminalization laws  in her country.

Where The New Republican And Democratic Congressional Leaders Stand On Marijuana

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.



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