Issue 6 of 2016: Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment
Issues 6 and 7 on the November 8, 2016 ballot both deal with medical marijuana, but take different approaches. Issue 6, the initiated constitutional amendment, would alter the Arkansas Constitution to make it legal to cultivate, acquire, and distribute medical marijuana in Arkansas. Issue 6 would regulate medical marijuana in a similar way as Arkansas currently treats alcohol.
If both medical marijuana issues pass, the one with the most votes will prevail.
Issues 6 and 7 are complex and detailed so we hope you take the time to read Issue 6 completely before deciding your vote.
UPDATE 10/08/16: Added section: “When Would Issue 6 Take Effect?”
Following are some general highlights of Issue 6, and more specifics are here.
Overall, Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA):
♦ Recognizes the legal use of medical marijuana under Arkansas law while stating that medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law
♦ Protect qualified patients, caregivers, providers and doctors from arrest, prosecution, penalty or discrimination under Arkansas law
♦ Sets up a system for growing and distributing medical marijuana
♦ Prohibits anyone other than licensed dispensary or cultivation facility from growing medical marijuana
♦ Identifies qualifying medical conditions
♦ Names Health Department as the agency that sets rules for the medical marijuana program
♦ Names Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission as the agency that sets rules for growing and selling medical marijuana
♦ Sets up a Medical Marijuana Commission that would license dispensaries and cultivation facilities
♦ Gives cities and counties the right to limit number of dispensaries and use zoning regulations to control the location of the dispensaries (as long as the regulations are the same as licensed pharmacies)
♦ Applies state and local taxes to medical marijuana and designates those proceeds for the Health Department’s administrative expenses for the medical marijuana program and then to several specifically named workforce and education programs
♦ Allow the Arkansas Legislature to change certain sections of the measure upon 2/3 vote (cannot change sections dealing with the legalizing medical use of marijuana and the number of dispensaries and/or cultivation facilities)
When Would Issue 6 Take Effect?
Arkansas law says ballot measures take effect 30 days after the election. Medical Marijuana Commission members must be named within 30 days of law’s effective date and have their first meeting within 45 days. The Commission has 120 days from the effective date to make rules regarding dispensary/cultivation facilities (licensing, applications and renewals and operations, inspections, and advertising). The Commission must begin processing applications for dispensaries and cultivation facilities no later than June 1, 2017.
The state Health Dept has:
♦ 120 days from the effective date to formulate rules for registry activities, labeling/testing, and for allowing designated caregivers to assist the physically disabled and/or minors; and
♦ 180 days from the effective date for rules on how new medical conditions can be designated as allowed conditions.
Alcoholic Beverage Control has 120 days from law’s effective date to set rules for dispensaries and cultivation facilities (ID cards for employees, registration and renewal applications, and punitive actions for noncompliance).
Little Rock attorney David Couch formed the ballot group Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, which supports Issue 6, after splitting away from the original group that sponsored medical marijuana in Arkansas — Arkansans for Compassionate Care — even before their 2012 initiative was narrowly defeated. Couch, originally part of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, cited the “grow-your-own” provision in the 2012 proposal as the reason it failed but was unable to persuade Arkansans for Compassionate Care to his side. Couch split off and pursued what is now Issue 6 of 2016, while Arkansans for Compassionate Care went on to sponsor Issue 7, the other medical marijuana proposal on the 2016 ballot.
Issue 6 sponsors finally got the measure approved by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge on February 17, 2016 after several ballot titles were rejected as being too vague, and the signature-gathering process began. COuch hired canvassers who were shooting for the July 8, 2016 deadline to submit 84,859 valid signatures (had to include at least 5% of the previous gubernatorial votes in at least 15 of the state’s counties).
On July 8, 2016, organizers submitted more than 106,000 signatures and the Secretary of State verified 72,309, which allowed the group a legal 30-day extension to continue obtaining the necessary signatures. 35,000 more signatures were submitted on August 19, 2016 and the measure was certified for the ballot on August 31.
Supporters point to polls indicating greater than 80% of Arkansans support patients using medical marijuana if prescribed by a physician. They say, as opposed to Issue 7, this measure proposes a tightly controlled system that does not allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they live too from a dispensary.
The Family Council Action Committee and Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana oppose both medical marijuana measures, and one lawsuit against the measure has been filed.
On September 9, 2016, Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana asked the state Supreme Court to bar the Secretary of State from counting or certifying of votes for Issue 6, saying (among other issues) the measure’s title doesn’t tell voters that dispensaries could sell food and drink that contain marijuana, and doesn’t give the impact the measure would have on employers, landlords, churches, and schools.
Also opposing the measure are Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, as well as the Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities, and the Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council.
Jerry Cox of the Family Council said
This is simply a back-door way for otherwise healthy people to be able to buy marijuana, sell marijuana, smoke marijuana, use it in food, so forth and so on…
The end result if either measure passes will be terrible for the people of Arkansas. Neither measure is medicine. There is no prescription from a doctor. Marijuana won’t be dispensed through pharmacies. No one will regulate the dosage, strength or content. Anyone with pain or nausea can qualify to use it.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment
♦ Allows the cultivation, acquisition, and distribution of marijuana for qualifying patients through licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities
♦ Acknowledes that marijuana use, possession, and distribution remains illegal under federal law
♦ Provides affirmative defense for using medical marijuana
♦ Allows future amendment of certain sections by 2/3 vote of the General Assembly (Legislature may not amend the sections legalizing the use of medical marijuana and setting the number of dispensaries and cultivation facilities allowed)
♦ Allows cities and counties to prohibit dispensaries and cultivation facilities only if approved by voters in a local election
♦ Protects qualifying patients, and dispensary and cultivation facility agents from criminal or civil penalties or other forms of discrimination for engaging in or assisting with patients who use medical marijuana
♦ Bans the use and possession of medical marijuana in public places, schools, daycares, colleges, community or recreation centers, on public transportation, in drug and alcohol treatment facilities, and in correctional facilities. The proposed law would also forbid driving a motor vehicle, aircraft or watercraft under the influence of medical marijuana.
♦ Establishes a 5-member Medical Marijuana Commission (1 appointed by the Governor, 2 appointed by Senate Pro Tempore, 2 appointed by House Speaker)
♦ Gives the Arkansas Health Department authority to process applications for medical marijuana registry identification cards, which expire in one year or earlier by a physician’s direction
♦ Sets qualifications for registry identification cards and sets standards for ensuring patient registration information is held as confidential
♦ Gives the Arkansas Health Department authority to add qualifying medical conditions after public notice and a public hearing, or upon citizen petition after public notice and a public hearing
♦ Directs the Department of Health to provide annual quantitative reports on the medical marijuana program to the Arkansas Legislature
♦ Gives the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division authority to set rules for operation of dispensaries and cultivation facilities
♦ Allows the Medical Marijuana Commission and Department of Health to determine that quantity of marijuana that facilities can grow and possess
♦ Gives the Medical Marijuana Commission authority to process and regulate licensing for dispensaries and cultivation facilities (must be at least 20 and not more than 40 valid dispensary licenses; must be at least 4 but not more than 8 cultivation facility licenses — no more than 4 dispensaries in any one county are allowed)
♦ Names specific medical conditions that qualify for the use of medical marijuana:
— Specifically named ailments
— Chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that results in one or more issues: cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain — pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than 6 months; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.
♦ Requires a written Arkansas physician’s certification stating the person has a qualifying medical condition to qualify as a medical marijuana patient
♦ Limits the amount of marijuana that may be dispensed to a qualifying patient or caregiver to 2.5 ounces in any 14-day period
♦ Bars persons convicted of a felony involving violence or controlled-substance laws in the past 10 years from being a caregiver
♦ Allows cities and counties to bar dispensaries and cultivation facilities only if approved by voters in a local election
♦ Allows cities and counties to enact zoning regulations for dispensaries and cultivation facilities (providing the regulations are no different than those for licensed pharmacies)
♦ Sets registration and operation requirements for dispensaries and cultivation facilities:
— Dispensaries cannot be located within 1,500 feet of public or private school, church or daycare.
— Cultivation facilities cannot be located within 3,000 feet of public or private school, church or daycare.
— Dispensaries must only grow medical marijuana in enclosed, locked facilities
— Individuals applying for dispensary/cultivation license must be current Arkansas residents and have resided here for the last 7 years.
♦ Sets initial maximum application fees for dispensaries and cultivation facilities
♦ Limits the amount of marijuana a dispensary can cultivate to 50 mature cannabis plants plus seedlings at any one time
♦ Bars certain conduct and imposes certain conditions/requirements on physicians, dispensaries, dispensary and cultivation facility agents, and qualifying patients:
— A doctor is not allowed to have an economic interest in a nonprofit cannabis care center if he/she is also certifying medical marijuana patients (no exams can be performed at any dispensary location)
— Dispensary or cultivation facility owners, board members, officers or employees cannot have a felony conviction involving violence of substance-control laws within the past 10 years
–Bars a individual from owning a simultaneous interest in more than one dispensary and one cultivation facility
— Specifies that 60% of a cultivation facilities ownership must be Arkansas residents who have resided here for the past 7 years
♦ Subjects the sale of usable marijuana to state and local sales taxes:
–State sales tax revenue is distributed 5% to the Department of Health, 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration Division, 2% to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division, 1% to the Medical Marijuana Commission, 10% to the Skills Development Fund, 50% to the Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund, and 30% to the General Revenue Fund
Some info sourced from the UofA Division of Agriculture’s 2016 Ballot Issues Guide, Ballotpedia, and the Arkansas Legislature website.