Getting to the point where you have enough signatures to submit for an initiative to be placed on a ballot can be difficult. There are countless man hours that go into gathering signatures, and even then, not all of those signatures will be deemed valid. In Arkansas there is a little less than three weeks left for petitioners to submit their signatures if they want to see their initiative on the 2016 ballot – and so far there is one group of marijuana activists who have been able to submit their signatures.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care needed a minimum of 67,887 signatures for their initiative to make it and on Monday, June 20th they submitted a total of 117,469 signatures for validation. If they have the opportunity to choose and enough signatures passed, they may have even collected enough for their initiative to be placed on the ballot as a constitutional amendment, which requires at least 84,859 signatures.
“Our law is written for the patients and we have hundreds of volunteers which are patients themselves that have been busy collecting these signatures. So we have the actual stakeholders that have been involved in our campaign,” said Ryan Denham with Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
Currently there are three different initiatives aiming for the ballots – but the other two aren’t as close to reaching the number of signatures needed. A second group aiming for medical marijuana to be placed on the ballot as an amendment currently has 50,000 of the almost 85,000 needed signatures. If they are able to get the needed names in time, there is some worry from advocates for Arkansans for Compassionate Care that the vote will be split between both initiatives, causing them both to fail.
This fear is a very real possibility and the reason that competing initiatives can be a bad thing when it comes to legalization. Everyone believes their initiative is the “better” one, when in reality almost any system is better than the one we have now. In Arizona a campaign that didn’t make it to this year’s ballot actually decided to end efforts to oppose a competing cannabis legalization campaign.
Even with the large number of petitions remaining to be collected, this is definitely the attitude we are seeing from the campaign run by Little Rock attorney David Couch. He has made it clear that he does not find the other campaign to be a threat to his and that he doesn’t even believe their initiated act will make it to the ballot, let alone pass. Yet they are definitely the further behind in the first phase of this whole process.
“I think it would be foolish for us to stop now,” Couch said. “We wouldn’t anyhow because we think we have the better proposal.”
A third campaign hopes to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana in the state of Arkansas all in one shot. Unfortunately, while they have very good intentions, trying to push too much on voters all at once may not be the way to go and they don’t appear to have near the amount of needed signatures at this time. Though, once (if) a medical marijuana initiative is voted in this fall, it will leave this group free to focus on legalizing cannabis for adult use and – with a more singular focus – they may have a better outcome.
All in all, it appears that there will likely be one – and possibly two – medical marijuana initiatives making the ballot in Arkansas this fall. They will have their work cut out for them to not only prove they have the better, smarter initiative, but they will also have to deal with the backlash from anti-legalization groups like the Family Action Council Committee and the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Committees. The first stretch is almost over with, but November isn’t here yet and these groups still have a long way to go.