Arkansans will have two chances to vote for medical marijuana legalization this November, a head-scratching development that many cannabis advocates feel will hamper efforts to help patients.
The Secretary of State’s office reported on Wednesday that supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment turned in 97,284 valid signatures from registered voters, easily surpassing the 84,859 required to qualify for the ballot. In July, the state approved a competing medical marijuana ballot measure.
There is a ray of hope for Arkansans in favor of medical marijuana: A poll conducted in June revealed that 58 percent of potential voters support the sale of cannabis to patients; 34 percent oppose the idea. Breaking down the poll data shows that Democrats (74 percent), African-Americans (73 percent) and those aged 30 to 44 (73 percent) are all supportive. State Republicans are split at 45 percent in favor and 45 percent against.
While the polling data suggests a victory for medical marijuana, the challenge of two competing ballot measures makes it difficult to parse. Studies suggest that when there is ballot confusion, voters tend to cast a “no” vote.
In 2012, Arkansas narrowly voted against medical marijuana. Could the dueling initiatives doom both to fail?
David Couch, the sponsor of the second measure approved Wednesday, rejected the notion. “I don’t think there will be any problem differentiating between the two,” Couch told the Associated Press.
But Melissa Fults, campaign manager for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the first measure disagrees. She has urged Couch to drop his ballot measure. If both are on the ballot, she fears both are doomed to go down.
“It’s going to be confusing. We’ll be right next to each other on the ballot.” The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA) will be Issue 6. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA) will be Issue 7.
Both would allow the state to set up a medical marijuana program and both contain similar provisions. But the devil is in the details and the two measures propose different regulatory plans to oversee growing and distribution cannabis.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a prominent Republican and former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, opposes both measures. He has repeatedly stated that legalizing marijuana would drain the state’s resources. Arkansas Democrats recently approved a platform that supports medical marijuana, but it does not mention either ballot measure.
Arkansas Business, a statewide publication, describes how the AMCA snd the AMMA differ.
Here are the details of both measures: