Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group behind a ballot initiative to legalize adult recreational cannabis use in the state, is suing over the State Board of Election Commissioners’ refusal to put the issue on the ballot. You can read the court filing here.
Roughly 193,000 Arkansans signed on to get the measure before voters in November. But this week, the commissioners tossed it out, citing objections to the way Responsible Growth Arkansas worded the ballot title. They particularly disliked a failure to mention that the amendment would change current law limiting the amount of active ingredient THC in cannabis edibles.
The initiative’s backers, a deep-pockets conglomerate of cannabis entrepreneurs, are asking the state Supreme Court to vacate the election commissioners’ denial of certification in time to put the recreational marijuana proposal on the November ballot.
They issued a prepared statement:
“After nearly 200,000 Arkansans signed Responsible Growth Arkansas’ petition, the State Board of Election Commissioners’ incorrectly rejected the ballot title and thus thwarted the will of the people and their freedom to adopt laws by initiative. The power to adopt laws by initiative lies at the heart of our democratic institutions. That power must be respected. The Court should correct the Board’s error and let the people decide,” stated Steve Lancaster, counsel for Responsible Growth Arkansas.”
The group also filed a motion to expedite the case and order Secretary of State John Thurston to “conditionally” certify the amendment.
The lawsuit says the election commission unduly restricted the petition rights granted in Amendment 7 of the state Constitution. It said the board had ignored court precedent to give liberal construction to a proposal and instead chose to “apply an overly stringent approach that denied the wishes of hundreds of thousands of Arkansans to have the opportunity to vote on the Amendment.”
The complaint argues a point with broad implications — that the state law giving this board the ability to accept or reject ballot titles is unconstitutional. Moreover:
The popular name and ballot title are legally sufficient under this Court’s precedent because they give voters an impartial summary of the Amendment that provides a fair understanding of the issues presented and of the scope and significance of the proposed changes to the law. Nothing is omitted that would give voters serious grounds for reflection, and nothing in the popular name and ballot title is misleading in any way. The Board thus erred in denying certification.
The complaint doesn’t delve into the objection raised by the board about the THC issue. Six of seven of the commissioners are Republican appointees, including two by Governor Hutchinson, an outspoken opponent of the measure.