LITTLE ROCK - A second proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas has met the signature requirements to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office said Wednesday.
At least 97,284 of the signatures submitted in support of the proposed constitutional amendment sponsored by Little Rock lawyer David Couch are valid signatures of registered Arkansas voters, Martin’s office said. The measure needed 84,859 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
A rival proposal to legalize medical marijuana, sponsored by the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care, qualified for the ballot earlier this summer. That measure would, if approved by voters, change existing law through an initiated act rather than a constitutional amendment.
The proposed constitutional amendment will appear on the ballot as Issue 6 and the proposed initiated act will appear on the ballot as Issue 7.
“I’m excited of course, and ready to start talking about the benefits of medical marijuana and the differences between 6 and 7,” Couch said Wednesday.
Both measures would allow the creation of marijuana dispensaries around the state where people with certain medical conditions could obtain marijuana. A key difference is that the proposal by Arkansans for Compassionate Care would allow limited home cultivation by people who live more than 20 miles from a dispensary and qualify for medical marijuana, whereas Couch’s proposal would not allow any home growing.
“I think once people see the differences, they’ll overwhelmingly support mine,” Couch said Wednesday. “I have to make sure they know that 6 is not 7.”
Couch said he plans to use television, radio, print and social media advertising to campaign for his proposal.
Melissa Fults, campaign manager for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said Wednesday her group’s proposal “protects the patients better” than Couch’s proposal.
“We have an affordability clause,” she said. “We have a maximum of what patient’s licenses can be charged. We do have the grow option for patients that live too far away to get to a dispensary.”
Fults said the group has 1,600 volunteers who will wage a “very grass-roots” campaign that will involve handing out handbills, posting yard signs and giving talks to educate the public about the issue.
A coalition of groups that oppose legalizing medical marijuana, including the Famly Council Action Committee, the Arkansas State Chamber Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau, filed a lawsuit last week alleging that the ballot title of the proposal by Arkansans for Compassionate Care does not adequately explain the measure and seeking to have it stricken from the ballot.