The group pushing for an amendment to the state constitution legalizing medical marijuana fell short of the required signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot, but will get more time to gather the signatures needed.
The Associated Press reports that the Secretary of State’s office verified 72,309 signatures on petitions submitted by Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, short of the 84,859 required. But because the number is at least 75 percent of the required number, the office will extend the deadline to Aug. 29 for backers to reach the required number.
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Proposal sponsor David Couch was unavailable for comment this morning, but the AP quoted him as saying that the group has continued to collect signatures during the verification process and he believes it already has enough to make the ballot. The group will continue to collect signatures on petitions for two more weeks, he said.
Another proposal to legalize marijuana, sponsored by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which is an initiated act rather than an amendment, has been approved for the ballot by the Secretary of State. It would allow patients who live at least 20 miles from a dispensary to grow up to five plants; the amendment would not. Sponsors of the Compassionate Care Act believe having two proposals on the ballot will confuse voters and cause both to lose and have asked Couch to withdraw the amendment.
A Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll found that 58 percent of Arkansans support medical marijuana, 34 percent oppose it and 8 percent don’t know. A proposal similar to the Compassionate Care Act narrowly lost in 2012.
A proposal to legalize casinos in three counties has also been given additional time to seek valid signatures. Petitions for a proposal to cap damages awarded in medical lawsuits for non-economic and punitive damages is still being reviewed. The initiated act was proposed by former Republican state Rep. Dan Greenburg and is being backed financially by nursing home owners who want to cap the value of their residents’ life at $250,000.