Responsible Growth files final brief in Supreme Court case, awaits court’s ruling September 2, 2022 By Griffin Coop The industry-backed group trying to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas filed the final written brief today in a state Supreme Court case that will determine whether the votes on the measure will be counted in November. Responsible Growth Arkansas, which appealed to the Supreme Court last month, pushed back in its brief against arguments that the ballot title was insufficient and that the proposed amendment would have dire consequences for the state’s hemp industry. Responsible Growth, backed by some of the state’s cultivators and dispensaries, appealed last month after the Board of Election Commissioners rejected the group’s ballot title for the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment. The Supreme Court allowed two intervening groups, Save Arkansas from Epidemic and Safe and Secure Communities, to join the case last month. Those groups argued in court filings that the Board of Election Commissioners ruled appropriately when it said the ballot title was insufficient because it did not state that the amendment would eliminate the 10mg THC maximum in edible marijuana products. The groups also argued that the amendment would eliminate the state’s hemp industry because the amendment states it would regulate cannabis. Marijuana and hemp come from the cannabis plant but are distinguished under federal law based on their THC content. By law, hemp is cannabis that contains no more than .3% THC. The intervening groups argued in their briefs to the court that hemp farming falls under the purview of the proposed amendment and would have to meet the amendment’s requirements. Arkansas Advocate delved into the issue earlier this week and caught up with some Arkansas hemp farmers who were concerned about the issue and others who still support the Responsible Growth amendment. Responsible Growth stated in its brief today that the hemp argument was “tortured” and that the amendment “does not prohibit hemp authorized under existing law.” “Intervenors try to turn those provisions into a prohibition on hemp, but that interpretation is tortured at best,” Responsible Growth stated in the brief. “Intervenors’ hemp arguments fail to refute the sufficiency of the ballot title.” We recently explored how Arkansas hemp farmers have undergone a difficult boom-and-bust cycle since the state’s hemp program began in 2019. The number of hemp farmers in the state has fallen from 125 in 2019 to just 27 this year and the number of acres farmed has fallen by 79% since 2019, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Agriculture. The two groups, as well as the state, also argued that the amendment will loosen restrictions on advertising to children. According to Safe and Secure Communities the ballot title is misleading because it suggests to the reader that a vote for the amendment is a vote for tighter restrictions on advertising that would appeal to children. The group says in its filing that the opposite is true. Responsible Growth responded that the amendment will repeal the current restrictions and replace them with new ones. “The Amendment will repeal those existing provisions and replace them with different requirements for child-proof packaging, and the ballot title says just that,” the filing stated. “The ballot title thus accurately states what the Amendment proposes.” Steve Lancaster, counsel for Responsible Growth, said he is “very confident” the court will rule in his group’s favor and that the campaign for the measure has not stopped. The group released its first TV ad this week, focusing on the portion of tax revenue that will be dedicated to law enforcement. “We are confident that the court’s going to agree with us and we’ll be on the ballot and votes count and we’re going forward with the campaign,” Lancaster said. The Supreme Court ordered last month that the measure be placed on the ballot. The upcoming ruling from the court will determine whether votes on the measure will be counted. Lancaster said he hopes to get a ruling on the matter this month but that it could be next month when the court issues its ruling. Save Arkansas from Epidemic was formed by Fairfield Bay Police Chief David Burnett and Little Rock attorney AJ Kelly, according to documents filed with the state Ethics Commission. The group has not filed any financial documents. Safe and Secure Communities was formed by Michael McCauley who listed an address in Downers Grove, Illinois, according to the Ethics Commission. The group is funded solely by a $250,000 donation from Arkansas chicken magnate Ron Cameron, CEO of chicken company Mountaire, according to financial records.