Something we seem to see a lot of in states that are trying to legalize marijuana, no matter what the purpose may be (medical or recreational), is multiple groups starting multiple petition campaigns, rather than coming together under one united front. There are benefits and drawbacks to both; one ballot proposal might be much better outlined than the other, on the other hand, multiple options on the ballot could cause them all to fail.
Arkansas is yet another state where there are multiple petitions floating around, all in hopes of legalizing marijuana in one form or another. In the 2012 election, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act was denied by a mere 2% of the vote. That campaign picked up again and has been gathering petitions for quite a while. It was only a few months ago that another proposal for a constitutional amendment was approved, called the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is run by a group called Arkansans for Compassionate Care and they need roughly 57,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot since their campaign is a statutory initiative, not an amendment.
The way the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is set up, it would essentially end up paying for itself as all tax revenue would go back into the program. It has a “hardship clause” allowing patients to grow their own medicine if a dispensary would be too far to travel to and it would also provide a cap on the price of the product and make all “Cannabis Care Centers” non-profit entities.
On the other hand, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment was proposed by a Little Rock attorney by the name of David Couch. This would be a constitutional amendment, so it requires a minimum of 85,000 verified signatures in order for it to reach the 2016 ballots.
There are a few major differences that make it clear this amendment is more about the money than the patients. For example, there are no limitations on how much to charge for the product, cultivation facilities would be chosen by a legislative appointed committee, the tax revenues would be split between the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and many other state entities, and home growing would be specifically banned.
The way the proposal is set up is similar to the one that did not pass in Ohio, as it leaves a big opportunity for the market to be monopolized; whereas the Medical Cannabis Act focuses entirely on providing patient access and ensures that the program can sustain itself over the coming years.
On top of these two proposals a third petition has just been approved for signature gathering – and this proposal is just as unique as the previous two. The Arkansas Cannabis Amendment aims to fully legalize the cultivation, distribution, and possession of the cannabis plant. This means that they would be legalizing marijuana for both medicinal and recreational purposes all in one shot – which could give them an edge and could be their downfall all at the same time. (This was another possible reason the Ohio measure was not approved last year!).
There are only 60 days left for each of these groups to turn in their signatures – and the Arkansas Cannabis Amendment still needs all 85,000 of their required signatures as they were only approved this week. However, there is definitely quite a bit of confidence in this proposal and they are taking this challenge on knowing what an uphill battle lies ahead of them.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Amendment only has around 76,000 signatures currently; no numbers were readily available for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.
“I’d like to see Arkansas join the top half of the country for once, we’re last in everything here,” said Arkansas True Grass member Don Lane as he took his petition to file at the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday.
There is a long way to go for all of these campaigns since they are still in signature gathering mode – but if any of them make it to the polls this year, there stands a good chance that at least one of them will pass.