Marijuana Plants

Activists behind proposed citizens’ initiatives to reform marijuana laws in Arkansas and in Nebraska are now in the process of awaiting verification from state regulators.

In Arkansas, the group Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted just over 190,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office to place the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment on the November ballot. The constitutional amendment seeks to establish a state-licensed retail cannabis market for those age 21 and older. It also seeks to expand the state’s existing medical cannabis access program by increasing the total number of licensed dispensaries and by eliminating certain taxes. Advocates need just over 89,000 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot.

In Nebraska, the group Nebraskans for Medical Marijuana turned in over 90,000 signatures each for a pair of medical cannabis legalization measures — just above the roughly 87,000 necessary to qualify them for the November ballot. In addition to the campaign’s slim margin, activists are also involved in a legal fight over the state’s ballot access laws.

In 2020, activists met the state’s signature requirement, but nonetheless had their measure struck from the ballot after the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an opinion finding that the initiative’s language violated the state’s single subject rule requirement. That is why this year’s effort is divided into two separate measures.

The state’s Republican Governor, Pete Ricketts, has been a vocal advocate against any liberalization of the state’s marijuana laws, publicly alleging: “If you legalize marijuana, you’re gonna kill your kids. That’s what the data shows from around the country.”

If approved for the ballot, Arkansas and Nebraska will be among a number of states where voters will be deciding the issue this fall. In Maryland, voters will decide on a legislative referendum legalizing the use of marijuana by those age 21 and older. South Dakota voters will decide on Initiated Measure 27, which permits adults to possess (up to one ounce), home-cultivate (up to three mature plants), and/or transfer without remuneration limited quantities of cannabis. In May, the group Legal Missouri 2022 turned in more than 385,000 signatures to state officials — more than double the total (171,592) necessary to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot legalizing marijuana. Earlier this week, advocates in Oklahoma turned in over 164,000 signatures to the Secretary of State’s Office in an effort to place a binding, statewide marijuana legalization initiative (State Question 820) on the November ballot. That total is well above the the number of signatures necessary (94,911) to qualify for the 2022 ballot. Next week, backers of a legalization effort in North Dakota are also expected to turn over their signatures to state officials.

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