Second medical marijuana proposal certified
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Voters will have two choices to consider if they want to legalize medical marijuana in November.
The Secretary of State validated the signatures for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment today. According to Director of Elections Leslie Bellamy, the proposed constitutional amendment gathered 97,284 valid signatures, surpassing the minimum of 84,859 it needed.
It joins the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act as having qualified for the November election.
Leaders of the organizing committees for both proposals think they will do well, but they both will have to work hard in order to out-do the other.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a big obstacle at all,” said David Couch, who spearheaded the AMMA. “You know, we did this in 2012 and we got out our message. And since then, in the four years, this issue has matured a lot.”
The campaigns for both plans spent years, and enlisted thousands of people’s help, to make it onto the 2016 ballot. Now they will spend the next two months explaining to voters why their idea is the one that deserves a vote.
“You know, it’s gonna be a little difficult to differentiate between the two,” Couch admitted. “But being from Arkansas, and having written this measure, and having gone through this same process in 2012, I think I know what the people of the state of Arkansas want.”
The AMMA would allow patients to use marijuana for a smaller list of illnesses than the AMCA. The AMMA would put a limit on the number of dispensaries, and track the amount of marijuana patients get, which Couch described as being similar to the way a pharmacy tracks Sudafed.
The AMCA would allow patients who live too far from a dispensary to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for their own use, and would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for a larger number of conditions.
“I don’t believe that people in the state of Arkansas will vote for a measure that allow people to grow their own medical marijuana, like the Cannabis Act does,” Couch claimed. “If you look at the states that have passed marijuana legislation since , it’s been a really conservative approach to the issue. I think my measure is much more conservative and responsible than the other one.”
Melissa Fults, the leader of the campaign for the AMCA, says she is not worried as much about the competition as she is getting enough votes for her own plan.
“We’ve got 1,600 people that worked hard to get signatures out there, and now they’re gonna work hard to educate the people in Arkansas about cannabis and how it can be used as a medicine,” she stated.
The Arkansas Democratic Party put support for medical marijuana on its platform this year, which Couch believes will encourage people to publicly support at least one of the proposals.
“I think that, any time any organization like the Democratic Party comes out and supports it, that it legitimizes debate, and it gives people the anchor that they need to come out and speak forth and say: I’m for this,” he explained. “Arkansas’s not really a blue state, we’re not really a red state. We’re really a populist state. We really have big hearts. And that’s why it’s gonna win.”
If voters approve both the AMMA and the AMCA, the state Supreme Court will have to decide if they conflict with each other. Both Couch and Fults believe that will be the case, and then the proposal that receives the most votes will become law.