constitutional amendments, legislation drafting, regulatory reform


Arkansas voters passed the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment to the state constitution in late 2016. Almost certainly, the vast majority of voters did so without reading or understanding the intricacies of the initiative, and instead voted simply to affirm their desire to permit the medical use of marijuana in the state. Among many other provisions, the amendment imposed a 120 day time limit (later extended by the Arkansas legislature to 180 days) within which the Arkansas Department of Health and other agencies were to adopt rules implementing the voter mandate. While six months might seem like plenty of time in which to adopt appropriate legislation and regulations, the reality is that careful drafting is painstaking. Rushing through drafting produces writing that is unclear and inconsistent. It can result in requirements with which it is difficult (or impossible) to comply. The medical marijuana provisions contained an unfortunately large number of examples of the problems caused by rushed drafting. This article seeks to educate those who wish to use the constitutional amendment process in the future about the difficulty of clear drafting when particularly complex issues are involved. Ideally, the amendment process would not be used to accomplish this kind of task, but if the public deems it essential to act, more reasonable time-frames should be utilized. In addition, constitutional amendments should not restrict the state legislature’s right to amend and update the amendment unless truly central to the amendment’s purpose. Finally, this article also seeks to provide some guidance for persons with an interest in how the Medical Marijuana Amendment is implemented.