Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel approved the popular name and ballot title for a proposed constitutional amendment that would decriminalize marijuana. The measure is one of two marijuana related initiatives that could make the November ballot.
The “Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment” would allow for the “cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, sale, possession and use of the cannabis plant” and products derived from it.
The proposal would also allow the General Assembly to regulate the amendment, if it were to pass voter approval, but it states that federal law would still trump state law.
Robert Reed of Dennard, Ark., is listed as the pursuer of the proposed amendment. With the AG’s approval, Reed and his supporters may begin collecting signatures to qualify for ballot access this November. The group must submit more than 78,000 valid voter signatures by July 7 to qualify for the November election.
Officials with Arkansans for Compassionate Care are also working to get signatures to place their medical marijuana question on the November ballot. The petition circulated this year is largely the same as the one that made it to the ballot in 2012 – a ballot initiative that failed by a vote of 48.56% for and 51.44% against.
While the Compassionate Care petition closely mirrors 2012's proposal, there were a few changes. The key difference that is what is known as the “hardship clause,” which ACC Campaign Director Melissa Fults has said would allow individuals who live too far to receive deliveries of medical marijuana or have medical issues that prevent them from driving to grow up to three marijuana plants in the privacy of their own home for personal, medical uses. But she said such a provision in the law is not intended to just let people freely grow pot with no supervision.
"A health department representative can go to your house, ask to see your (medical marijuana) license, ask to see your grow room, to see that you are only growing the three mature plants you're qualified to grow," she said in this previous report by The City Wire.
Also, the medical marijuana effort is an initiated Act, different than the state Constitutional Amendment that Reed is pushing.
Opinions among Arkansas voters on an outright decriminalization of marijuana are unknown, but a recent poll of likely voters found that a medical marijuana initiative could be approved by voters. The Talk Business-Hendrix College poll asked the following question.
Q: A proposal to allow the use of medical marijuana may also be on the ballot through the petition process. It would provide Arkansans the ability to use medical marijuana for debilitating medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation and to allow patients to purchase medical marijuana at a regulated not-for-profit dispensary. If the election were held today and the measure were on the ballot, how would you vote?
• 45% Yes
• 45.5% No
• 9.5% Don’t Know
In terms of partisanship, Democrats are solidly supportive (56%-33%), Republicans are in solid opposition (60%-28%), and, appropriately, independents split right down the middle.
“Once again, assuming that the voters get the opportunity to speak on the issue in November, it appears we’re once again on our way to a close vote on the legalization of medical marijuana,” Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, said in his analysis of the April 2014 poll.
Possibly more troubling for those who believe marijuana should not be legalized in any way is that voters in the historically conservative belt that stretches from Fort Smith to Northwest Arkansas supported the 2012 measure. Combined, the proposal to allow medical marijuana was supported by 51.5% in Benton, Crawford, Sebastian and Washington counties. However, the measure failed in Benton County (47.4% for, 52.2% against) and Crawford County (47.7% for, 52.6% against).