More than enough: Responsible Growth officially exceeds signature requirement, on to next step

More than enough: Responsible Growth officially exceeds signature requirement, on to next step

The proposed amendment to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas is one step closer to making the ballot after the secretary of state’s office confirmed today it has verified more than enough signatures for the industry-backed proposal. 

Constitutional amendments needed at least 89,151 verified signatures to qualify for the ballot this year. Responsible Growth Arkansas, the sponsor of the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, submitted more than 192,000 signatures by the deadline earlier this month. 

Responsible Growth hit the magic number of verified signatures last night,” Secretary of State Spokesman Kevin Niehaus said via email today. “Assuming their ballot title is accepted, they will be on the ballot.”

Steve Lancaster, counsel for Responsible Growth, said today that the secretary of state’s office has stopped counting the group’s signatures now that they have exceeded the number of signatures needed. Lancaster said the staff told him they have “thousands and thousands” more petitions stored in a warehouse and available to count if necessitated by a legal challenge.  

Lancaster said he was excited but not surprised the group had more than enough signatures. 

It’s a huge accomplishment,” Lancaster said. “We’re just very excited about that. We knew when we turned in that we felt like we had plenty of signatures. To turn in that many, I think, really shows the breadth of support that we have for this.” 

Responsible Growth’s ballot title and popular name must also be certified by the state Board of Election Commissioners in order to make the ballot. The board must determine if the ballot title and popular name are misleading and whether a vote cast by a voter achieve’s the voter’s intent. The board was added to the process after the state legislature made a change to the initiative process in 2019. 

The Board of Election Commissioners will meet Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Supreme Court chamber to consider the Responsible Growth amendment as well as another amendment regarding a possible casino in Pope County.

“We’re very comfortable that our ballot title meets the standards that the (state) Supreme Court has laid out,” Lancaster said. “There’s a body of law that has interpreted the requirements  under Amendment 7 of the (state) Constitution and we feel very comfortable that our ballot title meets all of those requirements.”  

Responsible Growth began its campaign for legalization in October when it filed its initial paperwork with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Funded largely by five of the state’s cultivators and other industry members, the group raised $3.26 million and spent $3.03 million. 

For a rundown of Responsible Growth’s efforts to make the ballot, check out this summary.