Signatures submitted in Arkansas for initiatives to legalize marijuana and repeal Pope County’s casino authorization

In Arkansas, a campaign behind a marijuana legalization initiative reported submitting more than 190,000 signatures on July 8, 2022. Steve Lancaster, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “we’re going to be well in excess of what we need to get on the ballot, so we’re very excited about that.” Of the signatures submitted, 89,151 signatures must be valid for the initiative to appear on the ballot in November.

The measure would legalize marijuana use for individuals 21 years of age and older and authorize the commercial sale of marijuana with a 10% sales tax. Adults could possess up to one ounce of marijuana. Under the amendment, businesses that already hold licenses under the state’s medical marijuana program would be authorized to sell marijuana for personal use. An additional 40 licenses would be given to businesses chosen by a lottery. The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would regulate the program and provide for cannabis business licensing.

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Eleven states and D.C. had legalized marijuana through the ballot initiative process.

Signatures were also submitted for an initiative to repeal the casino authorization for Pope County. The county was authorized to grant a casino license for one casino when voters approved Issue 4 in 2018.

Under Issue 4, the Pope County license required applicants to pay fees to apply, demonstrate experience in conducting casino gaming, or furnish a letter of support from the county judge. The Pope County license was awarded to the Cherokee Nation, but the license is not yet in effect pending legal challenges.

Fair Play for Arkansas 2022, the campaign behind the initiative, said, “Gambling interests are desperately trying to bring a casino to Pope County, over the objections of our community. In 2018, out-of-state casino developers wrote Pope County into a statewide ballot initiative to legalize casino gambling in just four counties in Arkansas—without any input from Pope County citizens. It turns out that Pope County voters don’t want a casino. We rejected Amendment 100 by a 3-2 margin, the highest NO vote of any county in the state.”

In Arkansas, a total of 44 ballot measures appeared on the statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020. Thirty-two (72.73%) ballot measures were approved, and 12 (27.27%) ballot measures were defeated.