The state of Arkansas will get two separate chances to legalize medical marijuana this November as a second initiative has now qualified for the ballot. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment was approved with 97,284 signatures – they only needed 84,859 in order for their constitutional amendment to be placed up for voters. This could be a potential benefit and a potential downfall for patients, depending on how things go at the polls. The truth is, either initiative – both – or neither could be passed and there is clearly going to be a need for a good amount of voter education with two initiatives being on the ballot.
If this particular initiative passes, it would create a constitutional amendment that would allow medical marijuana for patients with a wide range of conditions; it would create dispensaries and require a physician’s recommendation – but it would not allow for patients to grow their own cannabis, even if they don’t live within a reasonable distance of a licensed dispensary. That last part is the biggest difference between this initiative, and the one that qualified in July called the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act.
“I don’t think there will be any problem differentiating between the two,” Couch said.
While there are some who worry that having two separate initiatives could split the vote, neither campaign is worrying too much about that possibility. Instead, they both intend to work on voter education, ensuring that voters are informed enough to vote for one or both of the initiatives – and in all likelihood Arkansas patients could have access to medical marijuana in the very near future.
“It will be our job to educate voters and help them understand there are two initiatives on the ballot and they can vote for both or they can vote for one,” Fults said. “It’s the voter’s choice.”
As the two groups prepare for the next few months of spreading the word, educating voters on their initiative and continuing to fundraise, the opposition to both campaigns, a group called Arkansans Against Legalizing Marijuana, has already filed a challenge against the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment – the same action they took against the other campaign when they qualified over the summer. Their complaint: that the title does not accurately reflect what the amendment would allow, including dispensaries being able to sell food and drink items infused with THC.
Though, their argument didn’t hold up last time and it is not likely to hold up this time either – I don’t think there’s much worry that the amendment will not be found on the ballot this fall. It’s getting about the time when we will be awaiting decisions in multiple states – and Arkansas appears to be set for some form of medical marijuana legalization, regardless of whether or not it is only one or both of the initiatives that pass.