David Couch, a Little Rock lawyer leading a petition drive to put a medical marijuana measure on the November election ballot, said he’d turned in additional signatures today to the secretary of state and believed the campaign had topped the number needed to qualify for a vote.
He said the office had verified 72,309 signatures on his initial submission. That left him about 12,000 short. He said he’d been meeting with the secretary of state on the initial submission and said he believed the office was ready to add some signatures originally rejected, perhaps as many as 4,000. He said he added about 23,000 registered voters in the latest submission, which should provide plenty of room.
Couch represents Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana. Its backers include a family in the liquor store business and a businessman whose other activities include payday lending. They see profit possibilities in approval of the amendment. They’ve spent almost $700,000 so far to gather signatures.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care had already qualified a medical marijuana statute (not amendment) for the ballot and had hoped Couch’s group might stand down. There are some differences, principally in Compassionate Care’s provision allowing people who live a long way from a permitted dispensary to grow small quantities of marijuana. Couch has argued that a “grow-your-own” provision doomed a medical marijuana measure that made the ballot previously. Couch’s measure also directs any revenue from subsequent sales taxes to a variety of general state government needs, while Compassionate Care directs all revenue to the medical marijuana program.
Backers of the marijuana statute fear competing measures will make it harder to pass both. Opposition is forming, including from the right-wing religious lobby, the Family Council. A group including a pharmacy lobbyist has also formed to oppose the amendment.