Arkansas to Vote on Medical Marijuana This November

A comprehensive medical marijuana proposal has qualified for this November’s ballot in Arkansas. A second, competing medicinal cannabis measure still hopes to qualify.

A proposal that calls for the legalization of medical marijuana in Arkansas has qualified for the November ballot, Times Record reports. Kerry Baldwin from the office of Secretary of State Mark Martin verified that the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act has received more than the required 67,887 valid signatures of registered Arkansas voters.

If voters pass the measure, patients suffering from one of a list of 50 debilitating or life-threatening conditions and a doctor’s recommendation would be allowed to legally obtain medical cannabis from a state-regulated dispensary. Registered patients and caregivers living further than 20 miles away from a dispensary would be allowed to cultivate a small amount of cannabis for their own use.

The group campaigning for the measure, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, sponsored a similar proposal in 2012, but the measure failed by a margin of 52 percent against to 48 percent in favor.

Polls show that Arkansas voters are in support of passing a medical marijuana proposal, but a competing medical marijuana measure could also make the ballot. While the initiative that earns the most “yes” votes would supersede the other, supporters of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act are concerned a second, similar measure could split votes and prevent either from getting enough “yes” votes to pass.

“It does complicate it tremendously if [the competing campaign] does turn in because it’s going to greatly decrease our chances of either one passing,” said Melissa Faults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care.

The competing measure, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, is a constitutional amendment and therefore requires a minimum of 85,000 verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. According to Marijuana Times, the amendment bans home cultivation, sets no limitations on how much to charge for a product, puts a legislative appointed committee in charge of choosing cultivation facilities, and calls for tax revenue to be split between the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and several other state entities.

The sponsor of the competing measure, David Couch, doesn’t believe having two measures on the ballot would mean imminent failure for either.

“If you support medical marijuana and you believe that sick people should have this medicine, you should say vote for both,” Couch said. “That’s what I’m going to say.”

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson remains opposed to either statewide medical cannabis initiative, claiming that the Arkansas medical community hasn’t fully backed cannabis as a medicine.

“I believe that while we want to provide medicine to anyone who needs it, this opens a lot of doors that causes more problems than it solves,” Hutchinson said.

So far, 25 states have passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation.

“Most of the states that have legalized it for medical use, even their medical bills have gone down for the state,” explained Melissa Fulchs of Arkansans for Compassionate Care. “It has saved the state money.”

Arkansas joins Florida and Missouri as states voting for medical marijuana legislation. Voters in five states, MassachusettsNevadaMaineArizona, and California, will have adult use marijuana measures on their November ballots.