Edward Stojakovic

A Second MMJ Initiative is Approved for Arkansas Ballot

A second medical marijuana ballot initiative will be put to voters in November after the Secretary of State’s office certified the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports.

Now both camps — the AMMA and the previously-approved Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act — will be battling against each other in addition to Republican leadership, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and groups such as Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana.

David Couch headed the amendment campaign after working with Arkansans for Compassionate Care on the failed medical marijuana measure in 2012. His plan differs from the AMCA in that it does not provide for home-growing regardless of the distance between a patient and the nearest dispensary or caregiver. The chronic conditions qualifying for medical marijuana use covered by Couch’s proposal are more limited that its counterpart — allowing for cannabis treatments to be utilized for only 12 conditions, while the AMCA lists 38.

The regulatory structure of the AMMA is also more complex; creating a Medical Marijuana Commission and authorizing at least 20, but no more than 40, dispensaries per county. The AMCA structure would permit one nonprofit distribution center for every 20 pharmacies, under the authority of the Department of Health.

“It’s going to be a tough battle, but it’s just the right thing to do,” Couch said in the report.

Melissa Fults, Arkansas Compassionate Care director who campaigned for the AMCA, has said that it is likely that both initiatives will fail if they compete for voter support in the general election.

“We have to believe that running a positive campaign and getting our volunteers out will get the message out enough that people will know the difference or will vote for both,” she said after the AMMA approval was announced. “It’s going to be confusing. We’ll be right next to each other on the ballot.”

If both measures are approved, the one with the most votes will supersede the other.

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