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These are stories related to the 2024 election.

AG Griffin greenlights revised medical marijuana proposal; rejects 'direct democracy' proposal

Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday (Feb. 20) approved, with changes, one proposed constitutional amendment affecting medical marijuana and rejected an effort to alter the initiative and referendum process.

Sponsored by Arkansans for Patient Access, the measure would make changes to Amendment 98, passed by voters in 2016. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment of 2024 was submitted for re-consideration two weeks ago after an earlier rejection from the AG. The proposed amendment includes changes to definitions, eligibility criteria, and regulations, including:

  • Removing language requiring a physician-patient relationship from the definition of “written certification” and to allow assessments in person or by telemedicine;
  • Extending the expiration date of medical marijuana registry identification cards from one to three years and to add two additional years to the expiration of date of existing cards;
  • Removing requirements for a “qualifying medical condition” and to add language defining such a condition as including any condition not otherwise specified in Amendment 98 that a health care practitioner considers debilitating to a patient that might be alleviated by medical marijuana; and
  • Allowing qualifying patients or caregivers at least 21 years old to keep and to plant marijuana plants in limited quantities and sizes at their domicile solely for the personal use of a qualifying patient. It prohibits the sale, bartering, and trade of such marijuana plants, and the Alcohol Beverage Control Division would regulate this qualification.

Griffin changed the word “cannabis” to “marijuana” in the popular name, making it the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2024.”
“In my opinion, the phrase ‘medical marijuana’ is a better reflection of your proposed measure. Therefore, I am substituting and certifying a ‘more suitable’ popular name,” Griffin said in an opinion letter to the organizers of the effort.

He also substituted language in several other places that he outlined in his opinion letter.

With AG approval, supporters can begin to canvass for voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot. You can read the medical marijuana opinion here.

On the “Amendment to Amend the Initiative and Referendum Process,” Griffin rejected the proposal on Tuesday (Feb. 20).

Known as the “Amendment to Amend the Initiative and Referendum Process,” attorney David Couch said he has been working with the League of Women Voters on a “direct democracy” proposal that would restrict the General Assembly from amending citizen-passed initiatives, clarify the legislature’s emergency clause voting process, prohibit monopolies through the initiative process, and state rules for the Attorney General’s role in reviewing ballot titles.

The main points of the proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Prohibit the General Assembly from amending a constitutional amendment with a two-thirds vote;
  • Establish a process where the AG is required to approve or substitute a ballot title in 10 days;
  • Establish a procedure where a challenge to the amendment would occur prior to the circulation of signatures;
  • Remove the AG from the process of a referendum, which is where citizens have a 90-day period to attempt to change a state law passed by the legislature. The measure would be named the title of the act that was passed;
  • Require emergency clause votes on legislation occur at least 24 hours after the bill was approved;
  • Prohibit any amendment that creates a monopoly or gives a specific individual, corporation or private business entity control of an initiative; and
  • Prohibit the General Assembly from referring a constitutional amendment to change the initiative and referendum process.

Several of the parts of the direct democracy proposal address recent controversies involving the process. Griffin said there were a litany of ambiguities in the proposed amendment.
“Having reviewed the text of your proposed constitutional amendment, as well as your proposed popular name and ballot title, I have concluded that, due to a key ambiguity in the text of your proposed measure, I must reject your proposed popular name and ballot title and instruct you to redesign them. This ambiguity prevents me from (1) ensuring that your ballot title is not misleading or (2) substituting a more appropriate ballot title,” Griffin said.

“The ambiguity pertains to how your proposal changes the law regarding the Arkansas Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review the legal sufficiency of popular names and ballot titles. Your proposed amendment adds language to Article 5, section 1 of the Arkansas Constitution that would significantly change the Attorney General’s role in reviewing ballot titles. Currently, as noted above, the Attorney General may (1) certify the popular name and ballot title as submitted, (2) substitute and certify a ‘more suitable’ popular name and ballot title, or (3) reject the proposed popular name and ballot title and ‘instruct’ the sponsor to “redesign the proposed measure and the ballot title and popular name. Your proposal would create a scenario in which every proposed popular name and ballot title is certified,” Griffin said.

You can read the direct democracy opinion here.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.
This content has been contributed by the staff of our content partners Talk Business and Politics.