Signatures submitted for three Arkansas ballot initiatives, addressing abortion, medical marijuana, and casinos

Voters in Arkansas could decide on three citizen-initiated ballot measures amending the state’s constitution in November after three campaigns submitted signatures by the July 5 deadline. The ballot initiatives address abortion, medical marijuana, and casinos. Campaigns need at least 90,704 valid signatures, as well as signatures equal to 5% of votes cast for governor in 50 of 75 counties.

Arkansans for Limited Government reported submitting over 100,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to prohibit laws or policies restricting abortion access within 18 weeks from conception; or in cases of rape, incest, or fatal fetal anomaly; or when abortion is needed to protect the life or health of the mother. If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, it would bring the total number of abortion measures on statewide ballots to seven. In 2022, there were six ballot measures addressing abortion — the most on record for a single year.

Local Voters in Charge announced submitting more than 162,000 signatures for an initiative that would repeal the authorization for a casino license in Pope County and require countywide voter approval for any new casino licenses provided for in any future constitutional amendments. In 2018, voters approved Amendment 4, which authorized licenses for one casino in Crittenden, Garland, Pope, and Jefferson counties. Amendment 4 was approved with 54% of voters statewide in favor while the vote in Pope County was 60% opposed to 39% in favor. Casinos have been built in Crittenden, Garland, and Jefferson counties. On June 27, the Arkansas Racing Commission approved a casino license to be awarded to Cherokee Nation Entertainment.

Signatures were submitted by Arkansas for Patient Access for an initiative that would expand certain provisions of the state’s medical marijuana program including allowing patients to grow marijuana at home, allowing telemedicine consultations, removing restrictions on advertising, accepting out-of-state medical marijuana cards, and allowing the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana if federal law changes to remove marijuana from the schedule of controlled substances. Medical marijuana was established in Arkansas following voter approval of an initiative, Issue 6, in 2016. An initiative to legalize marijuana for personal use was rejected by voters in 2022 with 56% of voters opposed.

The secretary of state’s office has until Aug. 22 to validate signatures and determine if the initiatives qualify for the ballot.

The Arkansas State Legislature has referred one constitutional amendment to the 2024 ballot that would allow lottery proceeds to provide scholarships and grants for those in vocational-technical schools and technical institutes.

In Arkansas, a total of 48 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 2000 and 2022. Thirty-two ballot measures were approved (66.67%), and 16 ballot measures were defeated (13.33%).