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STEVE ELLIOTT

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This means that Arkansans will have a choice.

Arkansans strongly favor medical cannabis, and this year it looks like they’ll get a choice about the kind of medical marijuana program they want to establish in 2017. David Couch, a Little Rock-based attorney leading a petition drive to put a medical marijuana amendment on November’s ballot, said he’d turned in additional signatures to the secretary of state and had exceeded the number needed to qualify for a vote.

Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana on Friday turned in about 23,000 additional signatures which will likely secure their initiative — The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA) — a spot on the upcoming November ballot, right next to The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA), a statute which has been certified for the state ballot since July.

 

Couch said the office had verified 72,309 signatures on his original submission, leaving him about 12,000 short of the requirement of 84,859 signatures, reports Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times. He said he’d been meeting with the Arkansas Secretary of State and he said he believed the office was ready to add as many as 4,000 signatures originally rejected.

David Couch, Arkansas United for Medical Marijuana: "Quote" [David Chilson / Arkansas Times]
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David Couch, Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana:
“I’ll be somewhat disappointed if we don’t hit 60 percent”
[David Chilson / Arkansas Times]

Both initiatives agree that cannabis is safe and effective medicine, but they differ on how to structure the program. The patient-centric AMCA focuses on providing sick and dying Arkansans safe access to lab-tested, affordable medicine via not-for-profit Cannabis Care Centers across the state, while the for-profit AMMA seeks to establish a government panel that would work with the Alcohol Beverage Control division to license and oversee eight cultivation centers.

 

AMMA’s  backers include a family in the liquor store business and a businessman whose other activities include payday loans. Both see big profit possibilities in approval of their amendment, so much that they’ve already spent almost $700,000 to gather signatures.

 

Arkansans for Compassionate Care had already qualified a medical marijuana statute for the ballot, and had asked Couch’s AMMA to stand down. One principal difference is that ACC’s measure has a provision allowing patients who live a long way from a licensed dispensary to grow small quantities of cannabis.

 

Melissa Fults, Arkansans for Compassionate Care: "Quote" [Melissa Fults for State Representative]
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Melissa Fults, Arkansans for Compassionate Care:
“Arkansans for Compassionate Care offers a better choice: controlled access to a medicine that is proven to be both safe and effective, especially against the debilitating effects of chronic illness and harsh medical treatments”
[Melissa Fults for State Representative]

Couch, on the other hand, claimed that a “grow your own” provision had doomed a previous medical marijuana ballot measure. Couch’s measure would direct any revenue from sales taxes to general state government needs, with ACC’s directs all revenue to the medical marijuana program.

 

“I’ll be somewhat disappointed if we don’t hit 60 percent” of voter support on the ballot, Couch said, reports AP. “People get it now. It’s different’ it’s evolved.”

You can compare the measures here.

“We look forward to educating Arkansans about the benefits of medical cannabis and the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, which was designed to provide safe and affordable access to sick and dying patients in the state,” said Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care. “Arkansans for Compassionate Care offers a better choice: controlled access to a medicine that is proven to be both safe and effective, especially against the debilitating effects of chronic illness and harsh medical treatments.”

 

Backers of the ACC marijuana statute are nervous that having competing measures on the ballot will make it harder to pass both. Opposition is forming to both, including from the far-right-wing religious lobby, the Family Council. A group including a pharmacy lobbyist has also formed to oppose the amendment.

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