It’s only been a few weeks since signatures were submitted by Arkansans for Compassionate Care – and the results are in: Arkansans will vote on medical marijuana in November 2016. The group had submitted over 110,000 signatures when only around 67,000 needed to be verified in order to qualify for the ballot; they were confident that they had enough signatures – and they likely had enough that they could have qualified for an amendment had they chosen to go that route.
Four years ago, voters narrowly denied the patients of Arkansas legal access to medical marijuana – losing by only 2% of the vote. This time, things are running rather smooth and support appears to be growing – however, things could get more complicated in the coming weeks as a competing campaign claims they will have submitted signatures by Friday in hopes of getting their medical marijuana initiative on the ballot as well.
Having two competing campaigns could turn out to be a problem – as each campaign is going to market that their solution is the best solution, it may be difficult for voters to make a decision. If a majority agree that medical marijuana should be legal but that majority is split down the middle on which initiative should win, the vote could end up somewhere around 25-40% for each act, rather than a solid 50-60% that would pass the initiated act into law.
“It does complicate it tremendously if he does turn in because it’s going to greatly decrease our chances of either one passing,” Fults said.
Melissa Fults, the Campaign Director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, can see the problems with having two similar, but also very different, initiatives on the ballot. The already approved initiative would legalize medical marijuana for any of 50 or more conditions, allowing it to be sold in dispensaries and allow a hardship license that would allow patients in rural areas without access to a dispensary to grow their own medicine.
The competing measure is actually a constitutional amendment – and there are some major differences that are potentially a cause for concern. Though it doesn’t appear that David Couch, the attorney who is the face of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, is too worried about the possibility of them splitting the vote. To him it’s simple enough, just tell people to vote for both.
“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.”
Within the coming weeks we will know whether or not a second medical marijuana initiative will be found on the Arkansas ballot this November. Until then, we know at least one initiative has made it and the wording looks pretty solid. It may take a couple years to implement, but if things go well in November, Arkansas could be the third state to legalize medical marijuana this year.