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Ark. voters could see multiple marijuana proposals

Posted: August 9, 2013 - 7:07pm
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DANNY JOHNSTON AP FILE PHOTO  Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, speaks in Little Rock against a proposed ballot measure that would have allowed marijuana use for medical reasons in Arkansas on Oct. 30.   AP
DANNY JOHNSTON AP FILE PHOTO Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, speaks in Little Rock against a proposed ballot measure that would have allowed marijuana use for medical reasons in Arkansas on Oct. 30.

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas voters could see multiple attempts to legalize medical marijuana on the ballot next year.

Two groups are vying to put similar proposed initiated acts before voters in 2014 after a push to legalize medical marijuana narrowly failed in the November 2012 general election.

This week, a measure from a group called Arkansans for Responsible Medicine moved a step closer to voters when Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified its popular name and ballot title. That organization can now begin gathering signatures in an effort to qualify for a spot on next year’s ballot.

Another group, Arkansans for Compassionate Care 2014, hopes to start collecting signatures soon, too.

Both groups need 62,507 signatures in order for their proposals to be eligible for the ballot.

For now, Arkansans for Compassionate Care 2014 is working on a revised proposal after McDaniel on Tuesday rejected a request to certify the group’s ballot title and popular name. Spokeswoman Shannon Steece said the organization plans to address what McDaniel called ambiguities and resubmit another similar measure.

The proposals from both groups would allow patients with qualifying conditions to purchase marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries. However, unlike last year’s proposal and the current one from Arkansans for Compassionate Care 2014, the proposal from Arkansans for Responsible Medicine would not allow certain patients to grow their own marijuana.

David Couch, legal counsel for Arkansans for Responsible Medicine, said the so-called “grow-your-own” provision was a sticking point with some voters last year.

“There’s just no way to adequately address or deal with someone who grows it in their own house,” Couch said. “It’s impossible to regulate what you’ve got growing in your backyard or in your kitchen.”

Couch, who worked with Arkansans for Compassionate Care last year, said he doesn’t envision joining forces with that group this year.

“I think that if there are two proposals and there are two campaigns on the ballot, I think the discussion about medical marijuana will actually drive more people to the poll to vote on this particular issue because ... it is medicine and it should be regulated,” Couch said.

Jerry Cox, the founder and president of the conservative Little Rock-based Family Council, disagreed.

“This is not about medicine,” Cox said. “It’s about legalizing marijuana.”

Cox, who opposes the marijuana-related proposals, said he’s not sure how the possibility of having multiple marijuana issues on the ballot would play out.

“On the one hand, one might say, ‘Well, if the pro-marijuana people start to argue among themselves, does that hurt their ability to get their measure passed?’” Cox said. “On the other hand, if marijuana is in the news more and more, does that get more people out to vote for it or does it energize people that are against it? I just don’t know the answer to that.”

A third group, Arkansans For Medical Cannabis, is awaiting a decision from McDaniel after it resubmitted a revised proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

That proposal — unlike the two proposed initiated acts — calls for ending a prohibition on the cannabis plant, not just legalizing medical marijuana.

Amendments need 78,133 signatures to be eligible for the ballot. McDaniel must first certify the measure’s ballot title and popular name before the group could begin collecting signatures.

Some, including Couch, doubt that Arkansans For Medical Cannabis’s proposal will make it on the ballot, but spokesman Robert Reed said he’s confident that the measure will reach voters.

“I honestly believe that once we’re approved by the attorney general and we jump through those hopes that we will have absolutely no problem getting it on the ballot,” Reed said.


Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss

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reader 08/10/13 - 08:33 am
I have to agree with Jerry Cox, (something I never foresaw)

but the multiple issues will only muddy the water and split the votes in support of medical uses, personal freedom uses, etc. into a cloud of uncertainty for anyone who might consider voting for any of the issues. Thus I believe all will fail which is a shame because people with some diseases have found pain relief from it, when nothing else works, or has side effects such as opiate addiction, etc.

The use of marijuana medically for pain and anxiety relief would reduce the number of much more powerful drugs such as opiates being available in the medicine cabinets for prescription drug abuse.

The difference is if you run out of opiate pain relief you have addiction problems and pain. If you run out of marijuana you only have pain to deal with until you can refill your prescription.

The problem with prescription pain killers, is you are allotted a number of pills based on laws and the judgement of your doctor. Unfortunately diseases such as arthritis in its many forms, lupus (a disease not well understood) and others, are not bound by the law or your doctors orders, sometimes causing patients to exceed 'take 1 pill daily for pain' restrictions on your prescription. Some days people need 2 or 3, and sometimes maybe none, but in the examples I know of its usually the former. Marijuana is not addictive to most people. Even if it contains some addictive properties, it does not contain the levels opiate pain killers do.

The issue should pass for medical uses, and it should be regulated just like other drugs through pharmacies or non-profit dispensers.

Igor Rabinowitz
Igor Rabinowitz 08/11/13 - 04:30 pm
But first, a joke

A confusing number of ballots for the pro-marijuana stoners to sort out? I don't see this ending well....

Meanwhile, and putting aside the inevitability of what's going on here, the real joy of this is the following: Pro-pot votes tend to drive voters to the poll who often don't routinely participate in elections, AND these are people who are younger and more likely to vote in favor of progressive-identified agendas.

Now put this up against what's looking to happen to our national right wing as each candidate tries to out-viable the next coupled with the potential civil war between the Reagan-era and old guard conserves.

Recap: Lots of distasteful screaming from the right, more left-leaning voters showing up to vote.

This has the makin' of a big loss for the Republican party.

reader 08/12/13 - 10:26 am
LOL Igor

....there has to be one or more great, hilarious headlines coming from the next election!

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