By Phillip Smith
Two separate medical marijuana initiative campaigns aimed at the November 2014 ballot are underway in Arkansas. A similar effort to legalize medical marijuana failed in 2012, but came surprisingly close, winning 48.5% of the vote, and encouraging Arkansas activists to try again.
On Wednesday, Arkansas Secretary of State Dustin McDaniel (D) approved the language for one of the initiatives, meaning organizer can now commence the signature-gathering phase, but rejected the language for the other, meaning campaigners will have to resubmit after addressing McDaniel's concerns.
he initiative that was approved is sponsored by Arkansans for Responsible Medicine, and would allow patients with a doctors' approval to use marijuana and purchase it through state-regulated dispensaries, but not grow their own.
David Crouch, a spokesman for the group, said home cultivation was removed because that provision caused the 2012 initiative to fail.
"There was a poll conducted after the election, and 15-20% of people that voted against the proposal last time said they would probably vote for it had it not been for the grow your own," he told Arkansas Matters last month.
Arkansans for Responsible Medicine how has until next July to gather just more than 62,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. Crouch said the group will employ paid signature-gatherers and try to get past that hurdle in a hurry.
"We want to collect our signatures in a hurry and then we can use our people for the campaign and not worry about collecting signatures for a year and a half," Crouch told Arkansas Matters Wednesday.
Meanwhile, a second initiative campaign led by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which would allow patients to grow their own in limited circumstances, must resubmit its ballot title and language and be approved before it can begin signature gathering.
A spokesperson for the group said it will make the ballot and, this time, it will win.
Melissa Fults with Arkansans for Compassionate Care says she is not concerned with the possibility of two marijuana proposals on the ballot in 2014.
"I think that we will stand out," said Melissa Fults. "Like last time we will be on the ballot, only this time I think we will definitely succeed and it will be passed and the people in Arkansas that desperately need this medicine will have it."