LITTLE ROCK - Little Rock lawyer David Couch submitted additional signatures Friday in support of his proposed ballot measure to make medical marijuana legal in Arkansas.
Couch made an initial submission of signatures in July, of which 72,309 were determined to be valid signatures of registered Arkansas voters. That fell short of the 84,850 signatures needed to secure a spot on the ballot, but the secretary of state’s office said Couch had qualified for a 30-day period to collect more signatures and try to show that invalidated signatures were valid.
On Friday, Couch submitted what he said were 34,804 more signatures to the secretary of state’s office. He also said that on Thursday he submitted information to support the validity of some of the signatures that had been deemed invalid.
“I think that they’ll probably throw about three or four more thousand in from the original submission, and of this 34 (thousand) my verification puts it right at 23,000 of those are valid,” he said. “So I’m going to have 99,000-something. I’m going to be right around that number of valid signatures.”
Couch’s proposal, if placed on the ballot and approved by voters, would allow the creation of up to eight marijuana cultivation facilities and up to 40 marijuana dispensaries. An independent citizens commission would determine who would be awarded licenses to operate the for-profit facilities, with no one individual allowed to own an interest in more than one.
The dispensaries could provide marijuana to patients who have certain medical conditions, if the patients have doctors’ recommendations and registry identification cards issued by the Health Department.
The Health Department would be responsible for maintaining an electronic database to keep track of who is receiving marijuana and how much they receive. The state Alcohol Beverage Control Division would be responsible for inspecting the dispensaries and cultivation facilities to make sure they comply with all applicable rules and regulations.
Marijuana sales would be subject to all state and local taxes, with tax revenue being divided among vocational and technical institutes, 50 percent; the state General Revenue Fund, 30 percent; a fund for workforce skills training, 10 percent; the Health Department, 5 percent; the administrative division of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, 2 percent; the enforcement division of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, 2 percent; and the new citizens commission, 1 percent.
The proposed constitutional amendment states that any of its provisions except the ones making medical marijuana legal and allowing the creation of cultivation facilities and dispensaries can be changed by the state Legislature with a two-thirds vote.
A rival measure to legalize medical marijuana, a proposed initiated act sponsored by the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care, qualified for the ballot last month. That proposal would allow a person who lives more than 20 miles from a marijuana dispensary to grow a limited amount of marijuana at home — a provision that is the main source of disagreement between the backers of the rival measures.
The Christian conservative Family Council Action Committee has said it will campaign against any medical-marijuana measures that make the ballot.