2nd group against legalizing recreational marijuana OK’d to intervene in case before Arkansas Supreme Court

This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.
This Sept. 15, 2015 file photo shows marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest in a medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill.

A second ballot question committee opposed to a proposed state constitutional amendment that would legalize recreational marijuana has been allowed to intervene in the case that will determine whether the amendment remains on the November ballot.

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request filed by Safe and Secure Communities, which seeks to "educate the public about the consequences of legalizing marijuana for personal use, and advocate for the defeat of an amendment to the Arkansas Constitution allowing the regulated sale of adult-use cannabis in the state."

The request to intervene was filed by Michael McCauley, who is listed as treasurer of the organization.

The intervenors' brief is due along with the respondents' brief by 4 p.m. Aug. 30.

Last week, the state Supreme Court granted a request by the Save Arkansas from Epidemic committee, which stated it seeks to protect the interests and rights of Arkansans who oppose legalizing recreational marijuana.

That request was filed by David Burnett in his capacity as chairman of Save Arkansas from Epidemic and AJ Kelly, a lawyer from Little Rock.

Officials for Responsible Growth Arkansas filed a response last week to the initial motion to intervene, saying it came too late in the expedited proceeding without explanation, poses prejudice to petitioners by interjecting new issues when time is running short, and is unnecessary because respondents adequately represent intervenors' interests.

Earlier this month the state Supreme Court granted a petition to allow the proposed constitutional amendment back on the November ballot until the high court decides how to proceed with the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners' decision to not approve its ballot title.

The court ordered the secretary of state to conditionally certify Responsible Growth Arkansas' proposed initiated amendment pending its decision in the case.

Officials for Responsible Growth Arkansas had filed a petition seeking a preliminary injunction because of today's deadline for certification of initiated measures. It also asked the court to order John Thurston, Arkansas' secretary of state, to conditionally certify the petitioners' proposed initiated amendment pending the court's decision.

The proposed constitutional amendment would issue adult-use cannabis cultivation and dispensary licenses to businesses that already hold licenses under the state's medical marijuana program, followed by an additional 40 licenses chosen by a lottery.

Board of Election Commissioners member Bilenda Harris-Ritter, the Republican Party's designee, made the motion to deny the ballot title and popular name for the amendment partly because it would repeal the current THC limits without explaining if a new limit would be set. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Responsible Growth counsel Steve Lancaster argued that the role of the Board of Election Commissioners is not to judge the amendment itself but to see if the ballot title has language that is misleading or omits information that could change a voter's mind.

The initiative limits the sale of cannabis to people 21 or older and prohibits advertising and packaging designed to appeal to children. It provides regulatory oversight by limiting the number of licensed businesses, and does not allow for homegrown cannabis.

It also limits the number of cannabis licenses to 20 cultivators and 120 dispensaries statewide, which includes existing medical marijuana licenses.

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