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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n580/a07.html
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Votes: 0
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 2016
Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (Fayetteville, AR)
Copyright: 2016 Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC.
Contact: http://www.nwaonline.com/submit/letter/
Website: http://www.nwaonline.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/828
Author: Brenda Blagg


Voters May Face Two Pot-Related Measures in November

Arkansas voters may yet see dueling ballot proposals to allow medical marijuana in this state.  Last week, backers of a second pot-related ballot question, a proposed constitutional amendment, submitted what they say is more than enough signatures to get the issue on the Nov.  8 general election ballot.

Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office is reviewing the signatures now to determine whether there are enough valid signatures to meet the required threshold.

Since this is a proposed constitutional amendment, 84,859 valid signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot.

David Couch, the Little Rock man pushing the proposal, earlier submitted 72.309 valid signatures.  He turned in another 35,000 signatures last week and says he cured deficiencies in about 5,000 earlier signatures that didn’t count the first time around.  He expects the secretary of state to certify the proposal after all these new signatures are checked.

If that happens, the proposed medical marijuana amendment will join a proposed initiated act to allow medical marijuana on the general election ballot.

Back in July, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a group spearheaded by Melissa Fults, successfully petitioned to put the initiated act on the ballot.

It required fewer signatures ( 67,887 ), which backers gathered on the first go-round.

Since then, Fults and others have tried to persuade Couch not to submit more signatures for his proposal, arguing two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot might mean neither will pass.

It will be an interesting situation if both proposals are certified for the ballot.

Fults has already indicated she’ll fight for her version and against Couch’s.

“The only thing we can do is educate people and tell them they have choices and just pray that they make the right choice,” she said.  “I mean, that’s all we can do.  We don’t intend to fail.  It’s going to make it much more difficult.  We’ll be fighting on two fronts, but I think we have enough heart and enough volunteers that we’ll overcome it.”

You can bet Couch and other backers of the competing constitutional amendment didn’t do all that work to gather signatures unless they, too, are similarly committed.

There are differences in the two proposals beyond the fact that one is an initiated act and the other a constitutional amendment.

The difference most often cited is a provision in the initiated act to allow some hardship patients to grow their own medical marijuana, making access more convenient and affordable.

Qualifying patients could cultivate up to 10 cannabis plants in a secure facility.  Those patients would have to get a hardship certificate from the Arkansas Department of Health, documenting they don’t have access to one of the dispensaries that would be set up under the law.

Couch, who was part of the failing effort in 2012 to pass medical marijuana in Arkansas, is convinced the grow-your-own provision hurt that proposal.

There are differences, too, in how and who could dispense medical marijuana.

So voters will be challenged to understand the differences, assuming both of these proposals make the ballot.

If conflicting measures both pass, the one with more votes will become law, according to the secretary of state’s office.

There’s no guarantee either will pass, but the 2012 measure came surprisingly close.

Arkansas is following a national trend that has seen broader acceptance of the medical use of marijuana.

Not as widely accepted is the general legalization of marijuana, even though there is an ongoing effort to get that question to Arkansas voters, too, perhaps in 2018. 

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom