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Court filing by anti-marijuana group challenges state ballot proposal

by Neal Earley | August 26, 2022 at 5:10 a.m.
FILE - In this Feb. 17, 2016 file photo, marijuana plants grow at a home in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marina Riker, File)

An anti-marijuana group filed its response to a legal effort to keep a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational cannabis on the November ballot.

The group, Safe and Secure Communities, said in its legal filing Thursday that the proposed question on recreational marijuana legalization was "misleading, fraudulent, and illegal under Arkansas law."

Safe and Secure Communities' stated goal is to "educate the public about the consequences of legalizing marijuana for personal use and advocate for the defeat of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution allowing the regulated sale of adult-use cannabis in the state." Michael McCauley is listed as the group's respondent-intervenor and treasure.

On Wednesday, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted Safe and Secure Communities' request to join the lawsuit as a third party. Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a similar request to Save Arjabsas from Epidemic, a group also opposed to recreational marijuana legalization.

Whether voters will get a chance to decide to legalize recreational marijuana will be up to the Arkansas Supreme Court. Proponents of legalization collected more than the roughly 90,000 required signatures from registered voters to put a proposed amendment of the state's constitution on the ballot.

If approved, the amendment would legalize marijuana possession and consumption for adults and the sale and cultivation of cannabis by licensed facilities. The state would also have the power to regulate marijuana facilities.

The amendment would allow the state to issue cultivation and dispensary licenses for adult-use cannabis to businesses that already have similar licenses for medical marijuana. If approved, the state could issue an additional 40 licenses to other businesses through a lottery. Medicinal marijuana became legal in Arkansas after voters approved an amendment to the state's constitution in 2016.

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners rejected the marijuana legalization's ballot name and title because it did not include whether there would be a limit on THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive substance found in marijuana.

The pro-marijuana legalization group, Responsible Growth Arkansas, filed a lawsuit against Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston and the state Board of Election Commissioners asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to put the cannabis referendum back on the November ballot. Earlier this month, the Arkansas Supreme Court granted a preliminary injunction that will put the recreational marijuana question on the ballot until the court issues a final ruling.

Thursday was Safe and Secure Communities' first legal response to Responsible Growth Arkansas' lawsuit, rejecting most claims the pro-marijuana legalization group made in its complaint.

In its legal filing Thursday, Safe and Secure Communities said the recreational marijuana question should not be on the ballot because it does not "disclose the elimination of the currently existing THC limitation in the Arkansas Constitution."

The group also said in its filing that the petitioners, Responsible Growth Arkansas, waited too long to file their complaint and that the ballot title included "hidden elements" that make it "materially misleading, fraudulent, and illegal under Arkansas law."


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