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Arkansas recreational marijuana group submits petition signatures

Daniel Breen
Steve Lancaster, attorney for Responsible Growth Arkansas, submits paperwork to Leslie Bellamy (left), director of elections for the Arkansas Secretary of State's office, and Shantell McGraw (center), assistant director of elections.

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas turned in their petition signatures Friday.

The group Responsible Growth Arkansas submitted the signatures to the Secretary of State’s office to place the initiative on the November ballot. The proposed constitutional amendment would legalize recreational cannabis for Arkansans 21 and older, and would not allow for home-grow operations.

Steve Lancaster, an attorney for the group, says he believes there is enough support in Arkansas to pass the proposal.

“We’re using the same regulatory framework that is now used for medical marijuana, so we feel like we’ve built in some things that, regardless of your personal feelings about cannabis, that you should have some comfort that what we’re proposing is not really out in left field,” Lancaster said.

The group gathered over 193,000 signatures in each of Arkansas’ 75 counties, he said, which is more than double the roughly 89,000 signatures required to get on the ballot. He suggested that should be more than enough even if some signatures are ultimately thrown out.

“We recognize that there will be duplicates, there will be some things where people have not put the correct information or maybe they weren’t even registered to vote, but even with that we believe that the cushion that we have will have more than plenty to qualify,” Lancaster said.

The proposal would also expand the number of marijuana dispensaries to 120 and cultivation facilities to 20, and would dedicate tax revenue to drug courts, medical research and law enforcement stipends.

The Secretary of State’s office will now work to verify the signatures. Meanwhile, the state Board of Election Commissioners will review the measure’s ballot title and popular name over the next 30 days.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.