Group backed by cannabis cultivators files proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for adults January 26, 2022 By Griffin Coop A group financed by state medical marijuana cultivators filed a proposal this week for a state constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for adults. Responsible Growth Arkansas, which has raised $1.75 million from five cultivators, needs 89,151 verified signatures to get on the November ballot. If passed by a majority of voters, the measure would allow Arkansans 21 years and older to legally purchase marijuana without a qualifying medical condition beginning Nov. 18. Eddie Armstrong, the former state representative who leads Responsible Growth Arkansas, said the group hopes to create a “responsible and well-regulated industry” that creates opportunities for Arkansans to get involved in the state’s growing marijuana industry. The proposal would allow the state’s 38 existing licensed dispensaries to continue selling to medical marijuana patients while also selling to adult-use customers. The amendment would allow the state to license an additional 40 dispensaries that would be allowed to sell to adult-use customers but not medical marijuana patients. The amendment would not expand the list of qualifying conditions that allows patients to become eligible for the medical marijuana program. The amount of marijuana purchased for adult-use would not count against the purchase limits for medical marijuana patients, who currently may only purchase 2.5 ounces of marijuana every 14 days. The amendment would also expand the number of cultivators by 12, using a tiered system. The eight existing licensed cultivators would be granted Tier 1 licenses and would be allowed to cultivate an unlimited amount marijuana for sale to both medical and adult-use dispensaries. The additional 12 cultivation licenses would be classified as Tier 2 licenses, which Armstrong compared to craft breweries that would be smaller and not created for large-scale production. The Tier-2 facilities would be allowed to grow no more than 250 mature marijuana plants at a time and would only be allowed to sell only to adult-use dispensaries. Licenses for dispensaries and cultivators would be awarded through a lottery system. Armstrong said the lottery system would allow all Arkansans a chance to get involved in the industry. The lottery process would also avoid the “melee” he said occurred during the process to award licenses for medical marijuana facilities. The amendment would also eliminate state taxes on medical marijuana and would tax adult-use marijuana at the same 10.5% rate at which medical marijuana is currently taxed. The tax revenue would go to the state’s general revenues as well as to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, drug courts and to create a stipend for certified law enforcement officers. “Medical patients will no longer have the burden of paying a tax on their medicine or their products and that’s helping the people that need it the most,” Armstrong said. The amendment would not allow Arkansans to grow their own marijuana plants. The amendment would allow possession of up to one ounce of adult-use marijuana but does not address the expungement of prior marijuana convictions. Armstrong said he feels confident in the amendment’s chances of passage but knows there is a lot of work to get the amendment passed. Opponents Push Back Proponents of competing marijuana amendments criticized the RGA amendment Wednesday with one saying she would prefer that none of the measures pass than for the RGA amendment to pass. Marijuana advocate Melissa Fults, who is pushing a different amendment she filed last year, said the proposal would create a monopoly for the state’s existing marijuana business owners and does not help medical marijuana patients. “It’s horrible,” Fults said of the RGA proposal. Fults criticized the portion of the RGA amendment that would allow for one person to hold ownership in up to 18 dispensaries. She also expressed dismay that the measure would eliminate the need for background checks on anyone holding an ownership stake of 5% or less even though employees must still go through background checks with no ownership stake. “Why is it a problem to have a background check?” Fults said. “Are they going to bring the cartel in?” Armstrong said eliminating the background checks in this way was important in case marijuana is ever legalized on the federal level. If it is legalized federally, publicly traded companies would be able to invest in Arkansas marijuana businesses without submitting every shareholder for a background check, Armstrong said. The 5% cap was important, Armstrong said, to allow Arkansas stakeholders and shareholders to keep the majority of ownership. Briana Boling of Arkansas True Grass, which also filed an amendment last year, called the RGA proposal “greedy” because it is too favorable to the industry that is funding the amendment. “They are not going to address anything that is for the people,” Boling said. “They just want to put money in their pocket.” Boling expressed concern that existing cultivators will be able to become Tier 1 cultivators while new cultivators would be limited in how much they can grow as Tier 2 cultivators. Fults and Boling said they plan to work together to fight the RGA amendment. “We can’t let theirs pass,” Fults said. “I will move heaven and earth to make sure theirs does not pass.” All three amendments need 89,151 verified signatures to make the November ballot. The deadline to submit petitions is July 8, 2022.