Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Medical marijuana initiative qualifies for ballot

Posted By on Wed, Aug 22, 2012 at 4:04 PM

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The secretary of state's office today said that Arkansans for Compassionate Care has turned in a sufficient number of signatures to qualify its proposal to allow Arkansans with qualifying medical conditions to purchase marijuana from non-profit dispensaries.

A slight plurality said they'd support the measure in a Talk Business-Hendrix College poll last month.

Jay Barth writes about the bump the measure's inclusion on the ballot could give to Arkansas Democrats.

Whether the measure is approved or not, turnout created by the issue could have ramifications for the partisan races elsewhere on the ballot. Specifically, based on what has happened with medical marijuana measures and pot decriminalization proposals in other states, there is evidence that the issue could draw to the polls voters whom Democrats traditionally rely upon but who typically turn out at lower levels than other groups.

The data from the Talk Business-Hendrix College poll provides additional evidence for this notion. In a year in which there is deep concern among Democratic partisans about turnout of their base because of the president's unpopularity in the state, the measure is favored by just over 60 percent of Democrats, with a similar percentage of Republicans opposing the measure. Moreover, the proposal draws the support of over 60 percent of those under 30 and 57 percent of African-Americans — two groups whose electoral participation is crucial if Democrats are to avoid historic losses in the state's legislative and congressional elections. Consider, for instance, the potential power of the measure to promote college student turnout in the hard-fought state Senate election between Democratic Rep. Linda Tyler and Republican Sen. Jason Rapert in Conway, a race that could well determine control of the state Senate in 2013.

In short, the Democratic Party of Arkansas would be well served by the Medical Marijuana Act's making the ballot. High-profile Democrats like Gov. Mike Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel have voiced opposition to the proposal. But, they would be real winners if advocates of the act gain the resources and media attention to more fully publicize the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act as the voters drawn to the polls are quite likely to vote for Democrats up and down the ballot.

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