Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2016
Source: Sentinel-Record, The (AR)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Author: Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press


LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A proposal to legalize medical marijuana in 
Arkansas qualified for the November ballot on Thursday, putting the 
issue before the state's voters for the second time in four years.

The secretary of state's office said it had verified at least 77,516 
of the more than 117,000 signatures submitted for the proposed 
initiated act by Arkansans for Compassionate Care were from registered voters.

Initiated acts need at least 67,887 signatures, while constitutional 
amendments need at least 84,859. Friday is the deadline for groups to 
turn in signatures for their ballot measures.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a similar medical marijuana 
proposal in 2012, and this fall could face two competing legalization 
measures. Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for 
Compassionate Care, repeated her call for the sponsor of the 
competing proposal to abandon his efforts.

"It does complicate it tremendously if he does turn in because it's 
going to greatly decrease our chances of either one passing," Fults said.

The measure from Fults' group would allow patients with a range of 
medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation to buy marijuana 
from dispensaries. Unlike the competing proposal, it would allow 
patients to grow their own marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary.

David Couch, the sponsor of the competing measure, said he planned to 
submit petitions for his proposed constitutional amendment Friday 
morning and said he didn't believe having two marijuana proposals on 
the ballot would doom either.

"If you support medical marijuana and you believe that sick people 
should have this medicine, you should say vote for both," Couch said. 
"That's what I'm going to say."

The conservative Family Council Action Committee, which campaigned 
against the marijuana proposal in 2012, said it would review the 
petitions for a potential legal challenge and was also considering 
challenging the proposal's language in court.

"This same issue was defeated in the election of 2012, and I believe 
the people of Arkansas are wise enough to see through this sham and 
vote it down again," Jerry Cox, the committee's executive director, 
said in a statement.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a former head of the federal Drug 
Enforcement Administration, said he opposed the measure and urged 
members of the medical community to share concerns they may have 
about the legalization efforts.

"I believe that while we want to provide medicine to anyone who needs 
it, this opens a lot of doors that causes more problems than it 
solves," Hutchinson told reporters.

In addition to Couch's medical marijuana proposal, the campaigns for 
a casino legalization proposal and a proposal to limit damages 
awarded in lawsuits against health care providers said they planned 
to submit signatures Friday.

Restore Term Limits, a group that had proposed an amendment imposing 
new restrictions on how long legislators serve, said it would not 
submit petitions since it had fallen short of the signatures needed 
by more than 30,000. The proposed amendment would have cut the 
maximum amount of time lawmakers can serve in the Legislature from 16 
years to 10 and limited lawmakers to three twoyear terms in the House 
and two four-year terms in the Senate.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom