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Local & Regional News
Thu July 3, 2014
As Ballot Deadline Nears, Medical Marijuana Comes Up Short, Minimum Wage Says They're Ready
The July 4th weekend is the last opportunity for groups pushing ballot measures on the minimum wage, marijuana, and alcohol sales to meet signature requirements for Monday’s deadline.
Melissa Fults with Arkansans for Compassionate Care said the medical marijuana effort is short on signatures but says they hope to reach the over 62,000 signature threshold over the weekend.
“This weekend will be critical whether we make it or break it. We are getting very, very close and hopefully there will be enough out there getting signatures and we’ll get enough this weekend to put us over the edge,” said Fults.
A similar medical marijuana measure made the ballot in 2012 and garnered nearly 49 percent of the vote.
The drive to gradually increase the minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour has become an important issue for political candidates headed into November. Steve Copley chairs the group leading that effort.
“Currently we have the required number of signatures that’s required by the secretary of state. So, we feel very, very confident about where we’re at right now,” said Copley.
But he said the group responsible for organizing petition efforts - Give Arkansas A Raise Now – is not finished.
“This is the 4th of July holiday so there will be festivals and firework displays so we’re going to use this time to go out and add more signatures before the Monday deadline,” said Copley.
After signatures are turned in Monday they have to be certified by the secretary of state’s office. In 2012 no ballot initiatives had an initial validity rate above 56 percent. If too many signatures are determined invalid supporters have an additional 30 days to make up the difference.
Fults said the medical marijuana effort expects up to 50 percent could be invalidated, making for more work after the deadline.
“We’ll have to go back. I don’t think anybody ever doesn’t have to go back unless they’re very, very fortunate or have a whole lot of money and all of ours are volunteers,” said Fults.
Two other items trying for ballot access are constitutional amendments legalizing marijuana for non-medical uses and allowing alcohol sales statewide . Constitutional amendments have a higher threshold and will need to submit over 78,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.