LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday said voters can decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana, overturning a state panel's decision to block the measure from the November ballot.
Justices granted a request by Responsible Growth Arkansas, the group behind the proposal, to certify the measure for the November ballot.
“The people will decide whether to approve the proposed amendment in November," the court said.
The group behind the proposal had appealed to the court after the state Board of Election Commissioners blocked the initiative. Supporters submitted more than enough valid signatures from registered voters to qualify, but the proposal still needed approval from the board to appear on the ballot.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Supreme Court that they agreed with us and felt like it was a complete validation of everything we’ve done," Steve Lancaster, an attorney for Responsible Growth Arkansas, said. “We're excited and moving on to November."
Because the deadline has passed to certify initiative titles, the court had allowed the measure on the general election ballot while it decided whether the votes will be counted.
Arkansas voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. The proposed amendment would allow those 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and would allow state-licensed dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana.
The Board of Election Commissioners rejected the measure after commissioners said they didn’t believe the ballot title fully explained to voters the impact of the amendment. Supporters of the measure argued that the board's criticism went beyond what was required for ballot initiatives.
Recreational marijuana is already legal in 19 states, and legalization proposals are on the ballot this fall in South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri and Maryland. The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled a proposal in that state will not appear on the ballot in November.
Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press