Sep 25, 2016
Medical Marijuana in Arkansas: Differences in Issues 6 & 7
UPDATE 11/3/2016: The Arkansas Supreme Court today declined to rehear its decision that knocked Issue 7 off the ballot, giving no further explanation for its ruling against petition signatures for the citizen-sponsored initiative. UPDATE 10/31/2016: Arkansans for Compassionate Care today asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reverse its ruling striking Issue 7 from the November...
UPDATE 11/3/2016: The Arkansas Supreme Court today declined to rehear its decision that knocked Issue 7 off the ballot, giving no further explanation for its ruling against petition signatures for the citizen-sponsored initiative.
UPDATE 10/31/2016: Arkansans for Compassionate Care today asked the Arkansas Supreme Court to reverse its ruling striking Issue 7 from the November ballot for invalid signatures, saying “The Legislature essentially created a trap because it upended many years of prior practice. Issue 7 is the first catch of that trap. If this decision stands, there may be no future grassroots efforts simply because of lack of money.”
UPDATE 10/27/2016: Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, was struck from the ballot today by the Arkansas Supreme Court, who ruled that canvassers didn’t correctly follow new canvasser requirements (among other problems). As a result, votes for Issue 7 will not be tabulated (the issue remains on the ballot).
Arkansans faced with a November ballot containing two medical marijuana proposals are understandably confused. Why two? How are they the same? How are they different?
Medical marijuana activists have been pushing the issue since at least 2012 when our state’s first medical marijuana ballot issue narrowly failed at the ballot box. That group, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, has gone on to sponsor the current Issue 7 (“Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act”) on our November ballot.
David Couch, once a major player in that activist group, believes the “grow-your-own” provision is why voters defeated the initiative in 2012. Going forward, he was unable to persuade the group to remove the “grow-your-own” provision. He then split away and formed another ballot group to support what is now the constitutional amendment Issue 6 (“Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment”) on our ballot.
Couch’s Issue 6 regulates medical marijuana in much the same way as alcohol is handled (as a “prohibited substance” and using similar state agency bureaucracy), while Issue 7‘s language seems to be written with medicinal use and patients in mind (provisions on testing, organic grown, ensuring access for low-income persons).
While both Issue 6 and Issue 7 make medical marijuana legal under Arkansas, acknowledge that use remains illegal under federal law, and provide legal immunity for program participants (as well as put limits on various participants), some main differences include: *
♦ The “grow-your-own” provision:
— yes in Issue 7
— no in Issue 6
♦ State agencies and bureaucracy involved:
— Arkansas Health Department in Issue 7
— Arkansas Health Department, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission, and Medical Marijuana Commission in Issue 6
♦ The number of qualifying medical conditions:
— 56 in Issue 7
— 17 in Issue 6
♦ The way future changes can be made:
— Issue 7, resulting in a state statute, can be changed by either citizen referral/vote or 2/3 vote of the Arkansas Legislature
— Issue 6, even though it amends the state Constitution, allows the Arkansas Legislature to change provisions (other than those legalizing medical marijuana and number of dispensaries/cultivation facilities) with a 2/3 vote
♦ The number and legal status of dispensaries (called “cannabis care centers” in Issue 7):
— up to 39 nonprofit dispensaries/cultivation facilities (number is tied to number of state pharmacies) in Issue 7
— 20 to 40 for-profit dispensaries and 4-8 for-profit cultivation facilities in Issue 6
♦ Quality and safety testing:
— Health Department-certified testing labs to check quality and certify organic and pesticide-free medical marijuana in Issue 7
— no quality and safety testing in Issue 6
♦ Local control of program facilities:
— local zoning on # cannabis care centers/locations in Issue 7
— zoning must be “same as licensed pharmacies” in Issue 6
♦ Where the proposals direct the resulting tax money. Both would first direct tax revenues to Health Department administrative expenses, then to:
— low-income patient program in Issue 7
— Health Department (5%), Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration Division (2%), Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Division (2%), Medical Marijuana Commission (1%), Skills Development Fund (10%), Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund (50%), and General Revenue Fund (30%) in Issue 6
These details add up to major differences between the way Issues 6 and 7 approach medical marijuana, so please study all the details and understand the issues behind your vote in November!