One concern among those who have been campaigning for medical marijuana to be legalized in Arkansas was the fact that there will be two different ballot measures to vote on this year and it could cause confusion among voters. The two groups, one leading the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act and the other leading the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, actually worked together in 2012 to legalize medical marijuana, but when the votes fell short they went their separate ways, now creating two similar, yet still very different, initiatives for voters to decide on this November.
Now, not everyone has been concerned – David Couch, face of the Medical Marijuana Amendment, has been adamant from the beginning that voters are aware enough to realize the differences and that if people are uncertain which to vote for they should simply vote for both initiatives. On the other hand, Melissa Fultz, Director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care (who are leading the campaign for the Medical Cannabis Act) has definitely expressed concern that having two initiatives would split the vote so far that neither initiative would manage to pass this fall.
A poll conducted between September 15th and 17th, with opinions of 831 registered voters likely to participate in the election, showed that the voters are definitely aware of the differences between the two initiatives. As it stands now, the Medical Marijuana amendment might pass, just barely, if it did – but the Medical Cannabis Act certainly would not. Voters were asked two very specific questions; first question being how would they vote on the amendment (which would allow up to 40 dispensaries) and second – how would they vote on the initiated act (which would allow some dispensaries as well as “hardship” licenses allowing home growing for those who live to far from a dispensary).
The results from the first question showed that 49 percent of voters would vote yes on the amendment, while 43 percent would vote against it and only 8 percent didn’t know. Those are extremely favorable results when compared to the initiated act, for which the results show only 36 percent would vote yes, and an overwhelming 53 percent would vote against and 11 percent were uncertain. Based on just these two questions, it appears that most voters have a good understanding of both initiatives and are sure about which one they want to see pass this fall, if either one does.
“Arkansas voters do appear to distinguish between the two medical marijuana proposals, according to our survey,” said TB&P’s Roby Brock. “With legal challenges remaining, high-profile opposition, and the possibility of national groups spending money in support of the issue, these proposals may be the most contested on the November ballot.”
Now all that remains is time for the two campaigns to do their best to get the word out, educate voters on what a “yes” vote really means and who it is meant to help. The poll had a margin for error of +/- 3.4 percent, which means there is still a strong chance that the amendment would pass already – but in order to ensure the most votes possible they must continue to not only try and convince those “undecided” votes that a “yes” is the way to go, but also try and reach out to those planning to vote no – finding out why because perhaps they simply don’t know enough about medical marijuana to feel comfortable approving it – and then educating them to help them see why so many states have passed laws allowing medical marijuana and why so many more are still trying to.
It’s hard to boil down complex ideas into just two sentences, which is exactly what the Talk Business poll does. It paints a very simple picture for each of the two initiatives:
• For the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, the wording indicates it would be limited and inspected by a state authority.
• However, Issue 7: The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, would be open to “a number” of dispensaries (Cannabis Care Centers) and would allow people living more than 20 miles from a dispensary to grow ten plants.
This simplification of the issues makes it appear as though the marijuana amendment would be better regulated than the medical cannabis act, which is not true. The Arkansas Department of Health will oversee Issue 7 and have inspection authority within the state of all dispensaries—including any personal cultivations allowed by patients who have qualified for a “Hardship Cultivation Certificate.”
A more comprehensive poll from earlier this summer by a bipartisan group showed Arkansans overwhelmingly favor Issue 7 along with its key features:
• a limited hardship cultivation certificate (The Arkansas Department of Health will write the rules for qualification, but several are built-in to Issue 7. Only patients living more than 20 miles from a dispensary can apply. Hardship cultivations must be kept in a locked, enclosed facility and are open to inspection, just like the Cannabis Care Centers. Ten total plants are allowed—only five of which may be mature. It’s anticipated that less than 5 percent of Arkansas patients would use this option.)
• required testing for all medical cannabis sold in the state
• an affordability clause, creating a sliding-scale pricing structure for low-income and disabled patients
• oversight by the Arkansas Department of Health
• non-profit dispensaries, known as Cannabis Care Centers
• expanded list of qualifying conditions including Lupus and Parkinson’s Disease.
Results of Bipartisan poll can be found here: http://bit.ly/AMCApoll
[Disclosure: I am an unpaid volunteer for Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act and serve as the Communications Director for the campaign.]
I can’t help but feel that voters are still uninformed if they are favoring MEDICINAL cannabis to be regulated by the Alcohol Commission, rather than the Department of Health.
I personally feel it should be legalized for recreational use across the board; if we are talking about Medicinal Cannabis however, shouldn’t it be treated/regulated as a medicine and not a vice?