A marijuana education and advocacy group in Arkansas has announced that it plans to file two petitions with the state government so that recreational marijuana can be legalized through a ballot measure. The second petition covers the expungement of marijuana-related convictions.
Drug Policy Education Group (DPEG), the nonprofit planning the petitions, says that they had initially wanted to have both issues (legalization and expungement) in the same initiative. However, their legal advisors recommended that they submit separate petitions since it would be hard for the Attorney General to approve a petition which has a constitutional amendment within another proposed amendment.
Melissa Fults, the Executive Director of DPEG, revealed that they had been planning the petitions for more than a year but they decided to move quickly since the lawmakers seem to be moving towards making it harder for voters to effect changes to the state constitution.
Fults revealed that there was consensus among pro-medical marijuana advocates that the Medical Marijuana Commission (MMC) and the State General Assembly had deliberately delayed the launch of the medical cannabis program after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016. Sales started 2.5 years after the constitutional amendment, and sales totaling $2 million had so far been registered.
Fults and other advocates have been trying to see more reforms made to the existing cannabis laws. For example, they tried to expand the list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions to three times its current size but the bill failed to make it beyond committee level during the legislative session that has just ended.
The first petition, named Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment (AAUCA) seeks to give the state’s finance department, through its Alcohol and Beverage Control Division, permission to draft regulations for the recreational marijuana program (cultivation, manufacturing, testing and sales). Under the proposal, adults who are at least 21 years old will be allowed to purchase recreational marijuana in addition to having a maximum of six seedlings and six mature plants for their own use.
The second ballot petition, named the Arkansas Marijuana Expungement Amendment (AMEA), seeks to allow people who were convicted for possessing up to 16 ounces of cannabis to petition a court (which will be set up for this purpose) to be released from prison, have the conviction expunged or request for the restoration of their rights.
Under Arkansas law, any proposed petition for the passing of a new law requires signatures of at least 8 percent of the voters who participated in the most recent elections. A petition for a constitutional amendment requires 10 percent voter support to be approved for inclusion on the ballot.
The nonprofit and its supporters therefore have their work cut out if their petition is to see the light of day. Pundits think that the entire cannabis industry, including participants like VPR Brands LP (OTC: VPRB) and VIVO Cannabis, Inc. (TSX.V: VIVO) (OTCQX: VVCIF), will be rooting for the success of the initiatives since adult Arkansans will be able to enjoy the numerous benefits of the adult-use marijuana industry, such as employment.
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