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Arkansas Group Gathering Signatures to Get Recreational Marijuana on Ballot

Arkansas True Grass's proposed amendment would have the state's Agriculture Department regulate the recreational marijuana industry.
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Arkansas True Grass's proposed amendment would have the state's Agriculture Department regulate the recreational marijuana industry.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Arkansas marijuana activists are pushing to get a recreational-cannabis amendment on the 2022 ballot.

Arkansas True Grass started petitioning in May 2020 and has gathered an estimated 10,000 signatures so far.

The amendment would legalize the sale and possession of any part of a cultivated cannabis plant to people 21 and older. They would be able to buy up to four ounces of smokeable or vaporized marijuana per day. There also would be no cap on the number of recreational dispensaries, which has been an issue in Arkansas, since medical dispensaries are limited to 40.

Briana Boling, spokesperson for Arkansas True Grass, said she thinks a recreational-marijuana program would be a major boost for state funds.

"The taxes for it would all go to the General Fund besides the cost of implementing the amendment, and the General Assembly would decide where that can be spent," Boling explained. "So that would be good for the state. Also, allowing more people to be in the industry would be better for the economy."

True Grass needs 89,151 signatures by July 2022 in order for the amendment to make it onto the ballot. Boling added True Grass will have a booth at the Arkansas State Fair in October, where they hope to connect with many state residents.

Additionally, under the amendment, anyone who is incarcerated for a marijuana-related offense would be released from prison and have their record expunged. According to a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, Black people in the state were almost two-and-a-half times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people, based on 2018 data.

Melissa Fults, board member and treasurer of Arkansas NORML, said she thinks that racial disparity is one of the main reasons why recreational cannabis should be legal.

"If we have it straight-across-the-board legal, if you're 21, and you're in possession of four ounces or less of marijuana, they can't harass you, they can't destroy your life," Fults asserted. "The social injustices for a person of color, as opposed to me, a white woman, are unbelievable."

Arkansans voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2016 through a ballot initiative with a 53% vote. There are currently an estimated 70,000 medical marijuana patients in the state.

Copyright 2021 KASU

Emily Scott
Arkansas News Service