LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Voters in Arkansas could now see two medical marijuana initiatives on the November ballot.
One measure, called the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA), was approved for the ballot Thursday. The signatures for a second ballot issue, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA), were submitted for approval Friday morning.
“It will be absolutely confusing to voters,” says Melissa Faults, the campaign director for the group behind the AMCA.
“In the latest polling… one or the other [ballot initiatives] would pass with flying colors,” she says, “if both were on the ballot, it would critically hurt the chances of either passing.”
“My challenge during the election is not going to be getting people out to vote,” says David Couch, who is spearheading the effort behind the AMMA. “It’s going to be differentiating between mine and Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s [the group behind the AMCA].”
The fight over cannabis isn’t new in Arkansas, in 2012 a medical marijuana measure was barely defeated by voters.
The two new measures in 2016 are picking up the torch, but both look to set up a state-wide system in different ways.
The AMCA would allow doctors to prescribe pot for 56 medical illnesses, allow for at least 38 dispensaries across the state and some patients could grow up to 10 plants at home.
However, Faults says, patients who wish to grow marijuana will have to qualify for a “hardship clause,” with one of the requirements being that patients live at least 20-miles from a dispensary.
“The hardship clause will only affect probably around two-percent of the patients,” she says, “a very, very small number.”
The AMMA would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for 14 illnesses, Couch says. The number of dispensaries would be limited to 40 and cultivation centers would be limited to eight.
His proposal would also prohibit the growing of marijuana by patients at home.
“You don’t make your own oxycontin, you don’t make your own penicillin,” Couch says. “it’s the same thing in respect to medical marijuana.”
A petition to put recreation use on the November ballot failed to collect the necessary signatures by the Friday deadline.