The state of Arkansas has made headlines this year in the cannabis community and beyond as the state that has two separate groups fighting to get medical marijuana on the statewide ballot and passed on Election Day.
Last week the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (Issue 6) was assured of its place on the ballot after the state’s Supreme Court sided with the amendment’s supporters and voted to allow the measure to go before voters next month. Issue 6 would legalize medical marijuana for 17 qualifying conditions, create a Medical Marijuana Commission and allocate tax revenue to technical institutes, vocational schools, workforce training, and the General Fund.
“We conclude that while inside the voting booth, the voters will be able to reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016,” wrote Associate Justice Courtney Hudson, basically saying that it is not the Court’s job to interpret the content of the ballot measure.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (Issue 7) is the more robust measure in terms of what it allows for patients when compared with Issue 6, but Issue 7 still faces legal hurdles of its own. If allowed on the ballot and passed, Issue 7 would cover 56 qualifying conditions and also allow patients who do not live within 20 miles of a medical marijuana dispensary to grow their own medicine.
Voters in Arkansas narrowly voted against medical marijuana in 2012, and this year supporters face opposition from the likes of the state’s Governor and former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Asa Hutchinson (R).
In polls released late last month, Issue 6 was receiving 49% support while the better-for-patients Issue 7 was only getting 36% support. Many fear that having 2 medical marijuana proposals on the ballot at the same time will cause many voters to choose the least-robust of the two as a sort of compromise between supporters and opponents. The numbers in the above poll seem to lend credence to that theory.
If both fail then patients in AR will be left with nothing and supporters will be back at square one. In a state of about 3 million, that means at least tens of thousands of people who need medical marijuana are classified as criminals and forced to go to the black market for their medicine. How many patients go without on a daily basis, or are forced to take deadly and addictive prescription drugs simply because authorities in Arkansas have decided they are not allowed a safer alternative?
How long will sick people have to endure this kind of treatment?