Backers of one of three marijuana-related proposals vying for the November ballot in Arkansas turned in dozens of boxloads of petitions to the Secretary of State's office Monday. Now it's up to officials to determine if there are enough legitimate signatures for it to be placed before voters.
Speaking to supporters in the Capitol Rotunda, organizer Melissa Fults with Arkansans for Compassionate Care argued the benefits are clear.
"Currently, 25 states in the U.S. have medical cannabis. There are countless clinical and pre-clinical studies evidencing that cannabis is a safer, more effective alternative to medication such as pain pills. The patients of Arkansas deserve a safer alternative," she said to applause.
A similar initiated act by the group was narrowly defeated by voters in 2012 by 51 to 49 percent. Fults said they were determined to try again, hoping to sway a few voters this time.
"For two years hundreds of volunteers, patients and their families have braved Arkansas weather collecting signatures for medical cannabis. We stand here today submitting over 117,000 signatures."
Nearly 68,000 will need to be validated to make it onto the ballot.
But Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, argued the proposal doesn't allow legitimate oversight.
"When people hear the term medical marijuana they presume with a prescription, from a doctor, through a pharmacy, regulated by the FDA, and this measure is none of that. In fact, if you buy marijuana from one of these dispensaries or care centers or stores, you don't know what's in it. You don't know how strong it is. You don't know what the effects of it are going to be," Cox said.
The proposal would also let those living more than 20 miles away from a dispensary grow their own.
"I think most people who follow this issue know that this is simply a backdoor way for otherwise healthy people to be able to buy marijuana, sell marijuana, smoke marijuana," Cox said.
Two other marijuana-related proposals are still in the works, with organizers collecting signatures.
One of those would be a constitutional amendment for medical uses, but unlike Fults' proposal, would not allow people to cultivate marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary. It's being pursued by Little Rock lawyer David Couch.
Fults suggested Monday that if both medicinal proposals go forward, both are destined to fail. She called on Couch and his partner to drop their proposal for the benefit of sick and dying patients who "cannot afford to lose this battle."
The other proposal that the Secretary of State's office approved the wording for, which allowed a period to collect signatures from registered voters, is a constitutional amendment from Robert Reed which would legalize recreational use.