Voters in Arkansas will get the opportunity this November to decide, once again, whether the state should legalize a medical marijuana program for the severely sick and terminally ill.
On Thursday, the Secretary of State’s office announced that a proposed ballot measure brought forth by Arkansans for Compassionate Care qualified enough signatures to go before the voting community in the upcoming election. The group recently submitted over 117,000 signatures in hopes that at least 67,887 would be verified by the state.
While the proposal has been cleared for the ballot, organizers are concerned that voters might get confused when they head to the polls later this year, because there is one more group seeking to put its concept of medical marijuana on the ballot, as well. It is for this reason that Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, is calling for an initiative supported by Little Rock attorney David Couch to suspend its campaign and join forces in order to put a single measure on the ballot this November.
“Polling suggests that if both initiatives make the ballot, it’s almost certain that both will fail,” Fault told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement. “Today, as we turn toward November, I’m asking Jason Polk and David Couch to end their campaign and join us to ensure sick and dying Arkansans get the most patient-oriented initiative we can. Placing two initiatives on the ballot will cause both to fail.”
However, Couch does not appear interested in throwing in the towel. Earlier this week, he told the Associated Press that he was still planning to submit the required signatures ahead of Friday’s deadline and that the competition over all this medical marijuana business really isn’t a competition at all.
“If you support medical marijuana and you believe that sick people should have this medicine, you should say vote for both,” he said. “That’s what I’m going to say.”
Regardless of whether the two initiatives appear separately or in a unified front, the issue will likely face the same opposition it did in 2012 when a similar measure went before the voters and failed. Reports indicate that the Family Council Action Committee, the same group responsible for running an anti-pot campaign across the state, four years ago, is currently weighing in on the language of the proposed ballot measure to determine whether it needs to step in and lay down another round of sabotage tactics.
A third initiative (Arkansas Cannabis Amendment) was also pushing to appear on the ballot this fall – one seeking to legalize the leaf for both medicinal and recreational purposes. However, campaign organizer Mary Berry told HIGH TIMES that while additional petitions are expected to arrive ahead of Friday’s deadline, she doubts there will be enough support to secure a spot on the ballot this year. But never fear, Berry says the group will be making an even stronger comeback in the near future.
“It saddens me to have to announce that we did not make our goal if 85,000 signatures,” Berry said. “We will resubmit for the 2018 election cycle with the time allotted us with the late approval of the proposed measure. We have built a great group of folks that are ready to hit this thing hard for the next two years and they will not give up until the people and the cannabis plant are free.”