The state attorney general in Arkansas has given the preliminary green light to a ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana.
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified the language of the ballot proposal for the 2014 election, which would allow patients in need to obtain their marijuana medication legally. The proposal, titled the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, was submitted by Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
This was the group’s second submission. The first was rejected after McDaniel claimed the ballot language was unclear about the definition of marijuana.
Indeed, McDaniel has rejected at least half a dozen medical marijuana proposals for next year’s ballot, usually on the grounds of ambiguity. In some cases he appeared to be playing lawmaker, rejecting one proposal, then accepting it on a second try after a home-grow provision was removed.
That initiative, also called the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act and submitted by Arkansans for Responsible Medicine, is the only other proposal approved by McDaniel. He reversed his apparent home-grow position, however, when he approved the Arkansans for Compassionate Care initiative – a proposal that allows patients to grow weed at home.
Supporters of both initiatives are now cleared to collect the signatures needed to put them on the ballot. That amounts to slightly less than 80,000 signatures.
Voters in Arkansas, a deeply conservative state, defeated medical marijuana in 2012 by just 30,000 votes, giving supporters strong reason to believe they can succeed if they try again.
And medical marijuana advocates aren’t alone. A movement for full legalization is also underway, though the odds on success there are much longer. Arkansans for Medical Cannabis is trying to get language on the ballot to make recreational weed legal.
That proposal has been repeatedly rejected by McDaniel, however, and it’s unclear whether it will ultimately come before voters in 2014. It’s possible they will be confronted with multiple pot questions.
Simple marijuana possession in Arkansas is a misdemeanor. Getting caught with less than 4 ounces is punishable by as much as one year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine on a first offense. On a second offense, possession of any amount greater than an ounce is treated as a felony.
Currently, 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow medical cannabis. Two states, Washington and Colorado, have fully legalized recreational pot.
Given the close nature of last year’s ballot initiative, supporters think they have a good chance of legalizing medical marijuana in Arkansas – though full legalization may be further off.