AR: Attorney General Rutledge Rejects Full Marijuana Legalization Ballot Initiative

Photo Credit: Darryl Dyck

Speaking of weed, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today rejected a proposed ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in the state. The measure would go well beyond the tightly controlled medical marijuana amendment passed by voters last year. It would simply legalize marijuana, full stop.

The proposed Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment would allow “the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, sale, possession and use of the cannabis plant (genus cannabis) and all products derived from the cannabis plant (genus cannabis) is permitted in every geographic area of each and every county of this State.” The legislature could regulate weed, but not prohibit its growth or sale.

The amendment, proposed by Robert Reed, who has been working on the issue for years, was largely similar to a proposal submitted in 2016 and rejected by Rutledge, who cited ambiguities in the text, as is her wont. This time around, Rutledge crankily noted the lack of significant revision: “I rejected your proposed ballot title, and I instructed you to redesign the proposed measure and ballot title. For whatever reason, you have now submitted for my approval a popular name and ballot title for essentially the same proposal.” Rutledge also rejected five previous attempts by Reed to propose the amendment in 2015.

To proceed, the ballot measure first needs to be certified by the attorney general. At that point, the amendment would need to collect around 85,000 signatures of registered voters by July to make it on the ballot in November.

Reed did manage to get the the Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment, in relatively similar form, approved by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in 2014. That approval came after years of back-and-forth (McDaniel had rejected half a dozen previous attempts) — but it came in June, giving the campaign just a month to collect the needed signatures and get them certified by the secretary of state’s office. The group was unable to collect the needed signatures in time.