Friday, August 5, 2016

Compassionate Care wants competing medical marijuana proposal to stay off the ballot and join its effort

Posted By and on Fri, Aug 5, 2016 at 2:46 PM

click to enlarge ARKANSANS FOR COMPASSIONATE CARE: Wants competing measure to join up. (file photo)
  • ARKANSANS FOR COMPASSIONATE CARE: Wants competing measure to join up. (file photo)
Two potential competing ballot measures involving medical marijuana could confuse voters, argued the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care in a press conference today. The group, which is pushing the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA), made the case that the other group, Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, should stand down and join their effort. 

Arkansans for Compassionate Care has already gotten its initiated act on the ballot after getting the required number of valid signatures.

Meanwhile, Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, led by Little Rock attorney David Couch, has until Aug. 29 to collect around 12,000 more valid signatures in order to make the ballot. It is proposing an amendment, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA), to the state constitution rather than an initiated act. 

The Compassionate Care group's initiated act would allow patients who live at least 20 miles from a dispensary to grow up to five plants. The United for Medical Marijuana amendment would not; under the amendment, no more than eight cultivation licenses would be available. (Couch noted after we published this post that each of the 40 dispensaries allowed in the constitutional amendment could grow, too.) The Compassionate Care group's act would also cover more medical conditions. And there are differences in regulation — the Compassionate Care group argues that they offer more protections for patients. More comparison between the two here.

At a press conference at the Capitol today, six medical marijuana patients backing the Compassionate Care effort spoke. Each gave a personal story about how medical marijuana had been vital for their health (a few said it saved their lives). They argued that it was not worth the risk to put the other group's amendment on the ballot. Each asked, "What about the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment  is worth challenging the success of medical cannabis in the upcoming election?" 

In a press release issued this morning, Arkansans for Compassionate Care stated that they "are calling on the for-profit group, Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana to forego turning in any remaining signatures on their initiated amendment, inviting them to join [our] team instead."

Compassionate Care argues that its approach has the better chance of prevailing, citing a new poll out today, commissioned by the group: 
A new poll released today indicates a clear advantage for the not-for-profit AMCA, but having two medical cannabis initiatives on the ballot could be more challenging. The poll shows broad support for cannabis testing, hardship cultivation, low-income access, and Health Department oversight—and for the ability for rural Arkansas patients, who live far from a dispensary, to cultivate a limited number of plants of their own. While the vast majority (80 percent) of Arkansans support medical cannabis, more voters support the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (67 percent) than the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (59 percent). 
Reached for comment, Couch, of Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, responded:  
We are not dropping ours. We have enough signatures and will be turning in next week. We will not be intimidated by ACC. They are backed by Washington DC special interest groups and are pursuing an agenda not supported by most Arkansans. 
Meanwhile, Arkansans for Compassionate Care has criticized Couch's group for being financed by two major donors, the Bevans Family Trust, which owns Lake Liquor in Maumelle, and Cheney Pruett, a Texarkana businessman who owns payday lender CashMax, which recently drew the ire of the city of North Little Rock for operating a business in violation of the state constitution, according to the North Little Rock city attorney.

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