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New Arkansas recreational marijuana amendment proposed

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A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas was filed late last week.

The Arkansas Adult Use and Expungement Marijuana Amendment would allow for one cannabis dispensary license for every 15,000 residents in the state and limit the number of cultivation facility licenses to one per every 300,000 residents. It would also allow anyone with felony or misdemeanor convictions related to the possession of marijuana to petition the courts for relief.

This will be one of possibly three amendments that will be on the Nov. 2022 ballot about recreational cannabis. One amendment, filed in May 2020, comes from the group Arkansas True Grass. Called the Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022, it would legalize recreational cannabis for people 21 and older without putting a cap on the number of related businesses.

Melissa Fults, executive director Arkansans for Marijuana Reform, filed the latest amendment to propose a law that was in the middle.

“I think I’ve got the most reasonable [amendment]. I think people will see that. It’s truly written for the people, the industry, and the state. I think they will see that True Grass’ is just the wild, wild west and I think the other one, you’ll realize, is just a money grab,” Fults said.

Fults says she had not originally planned to file her own amendment, intending to support another proposal, but her requirements “fell on deaf ears.” Fults says she was especially concerned with the opportunity for citizens to be able to grow their own marijuana and to ensure there was an expungement opportunity for those convicted of related offenses.

According to Fults, the group she intended to support assured her that if their amendment passed, the legislature would act.

“I don’t trust the legislature. I’m sorry. But, they didn’t want medical [marijuana], so you really think they’re going to do anything to help recreational? No,” Fults said.

Another issue Fults said she had was where the other amendment would divert the funds. Excess revenue from her amendment would support after-school and pre-kindergarten programs, along with University of Arkansas Medical Sciences National Cancer Institute and medical marijuana research.

Fults said this had the chance to help the medicinal cannabis industry.

“Number one, it takes the tax away from the medical program. You can tax the retail sales but you can’t tax the medical. You know, we don’t pay taxes on our blood pressure medicine, our opioids, chemo. All of our prescriptions, we don’t pay taxes. This is medicine, so why should patients have to pay taxes on it?” Fults said.

Fults said this could prevent a monopoly and create more competitive and fair prices along with better products. She also said that this amendment could create thousands of good paying jobs.

“I think that the state is ready. They’re looking at the creation of a whole new industry. Jobs, tax dollars, you know, taking care of the things that we need to take care of, bringing money into the state. So, yeah, I think even the people that don’t want to consume it will realize this is good for the state,” Fults said.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, another amendment will likely be filed in a few weeks by Eddie Armstrong, the chairman of Responsible Growth Arkansas and a founder of Cannabis Capital Corp. Armstrong told the newspaper on Thursday that he could not give more details about the group's forthcoming amendment because of a legal review.

Remington Miller is a reporter/anchor for KUAR News. She was previously an intern at the station as part of the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship program. Miller is a student at UA Little Rock and studies Journalism and English. She is to graduate in May 2022.