It took at least eight previous tries but Mary Berry of Summit, Ark., has received approval from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge for the form of a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.
The act allows adults (21 and older) to grow, possess and use marijuana for recreational or medical purposes. It sets a 5 percent excise tax on sale of pot; requires release of people in prison for non-violent marijuana offenses, and requires clearing of records of those with nonviolent marijuana convictions.
Rutledge approved the popular name, the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment, as submitted, but made additions to the lengthy title to more fully describe the provisions.
An amendment to the Arkansas Constitution concerning the cannabis plant, providing that the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, possession, and use of the cannabis plant and cannabis-related products produced therefrom for recreational and medical purposes may not be prohibited under state law but shall be regulated under state law; recognizing that such activities remain unlawful under federal law; providing for the release from incarceration, probation, or parole of all persons whose only conviction(s) were of state laws pertaining to the cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana or possession of marijuana paraphernalia, and the expungement of records relating to such conviction(s); dividing cannabis into industrial hemp (containing 0.3% or less THC) and marijuana (containing more than 0.3% THC); authorizing both medical and recreational use of marijuana; providing that anyone 21 years of age or older may obtain a marijuana license permitting the person to cultivate, produce, distribute, and sell marijuana and products produced therefrom; providing that a licensed person may cultivate up to 36 cannabis plants in a location not subject to public view without optical aid; providing that sales of recreational marijuana will be subject to existing sales taxes and an additional 5% excise tax; providing that the state shall not impose any tax on the sale of medical marijuana to patients; permitting medical use of marijuana by a person of any age whose physician has recommended such use in writing; providing that the manufacture, possession, purchase, sale, and distribution of marijuana paraphernalia is lawful under state law; and providing that the amendment is not intended to (a) require employers to permit activities relating to marijuana in the workplace, (b) permit driving under the influence of marijuana, (c) permit the transfer of recreational marijuana to anyone under 21 years of age, or (d) permit anyone under 21 years of age to cultivate, produce, sell, possess, or use recreational marijuana.
The effort may now begin to gather 84,859 signatures by July 8 to get the measure on the November ballot. Competing efforts to legalize medical marijuana (one with a provision to allow cultivation, one without) are also underway. A medical marijuana proposal was defeated 51-49 in 2014. The thinking then was that the inclusion of a cultivation provision doomed it.
Full-blown legalization? Seems a long shot. But it might not be so far-fetched, with the spread of legalization, huge tax revenue and pot tourism in states like Colorado and Washington.