Sunday, January 3, 2016

Going to pot, and other state ballot issues

Posted By on Sun, Jan 3, 2016 at 8:44 AM

A friend forwarded the December newsletter from the UA Public Policy Center on coming statewide ballot issues. The website is a valuable, non-partisan repository of information about statewide issues already placed on the ballot by the legislature and developments on initiatives that might be headed to the ballot.

I'm sorry they haven't yet posted for web linking the latest newsletter, because it lays out in detail an issue that has prompted periodic questions from readers — legalization of marijuana in Arkansas. 

For the record, these proposals were approved as to form in 2014 and petitions for them can be circulated in this form:

The Arkansas Hemp and Marijuana Amendment - A constitutional amendment to legalize the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, purchase, possession and use of the cannabis plant in Arkansas was certified for signature gathering, according to Opinion No. 2014-119. Mary L. Berry of Summit submitted the measure.

The Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment - A constitutional amendment to legalize the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, sale, possession and use of the cannabis plant in Arkansas was certified for signature gathering, according to Opinion No. 2014-079. Frederick W. Porter of Hot Springs submitted the measure.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act - A ballot measure to legalize the use of medical marijuana, and a system for growing and selling medical marijuana was certified for signature gathering. The ballot measure was similar to a recent proposal that did not receive enough signatures for the 2014 ballot. In Opinion No. 2014-086, the Attorney General cautioned the group that "according to my experience there is a direct correlation between the length and complexity of initiated acts and their susceptibility to a successful ballot title challenge." Melissa Fults, campaign director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care 2016, submitted the measure.  

A couple of other efforts are underway but so far have not been approved as the form by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who was not in office in 2014.

The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment - In Opinion No. 2015-144, a proposal to legalize the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, possession and use of the cannabis plant and products derived from the plant statewide was rejected because of ambiguities in the text. The proposal is similar to a proposed amendment certified in November 2014 called "The Arkansas Hemp and Marijuana Amendment," but includes a new provision that would release people incarcerated for nonviolent marijuana offenses. See Opinion No. 2015-117 (Oct. 9, 2015), Opinion No. 2015-122 (Oct. 26, 2015) and Opinion No. 2015-132 (Nov. 17, 2015) for previously rejected proposals this petition cycle. The proposals were submitted by Mary L. Berry of Summit.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 - A proposal to make the medical use of marijuana legal under state law and establish a system for regulating the cultivation, acquisition and distribution was rejected because of ambiguities in the text (Opinion No. 2015-135). The proposal was submitted by David A. Couch of Little Rock.  

The success of these and other petition measures may turn on a coming lawsuit that challenges a state law aimed at making it difficult to hire paid signature canvassers. Among the differences in pot measures is a divide on whether to allow some limited growth of marijuana for medicinal purposes, particularly for people far removed from legal dispensaries. This provision was widely blamed for a relatively narrow defeat of a medical marijuana proposal in 2012.

The Policy Center can keep you up to date.

The legislature is proposing to give county officials four-year terms, to end the provision that ends gubernatorial powers when the governor leaves the state and, a real stinker, to legalize bigger government corporate welfare payments, including taxpayer handouts to chambers of commerce,

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