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Poll: Arkansas Divided Over Competing Medical Marijuana Campaigns

With two different approaches to legalizing medical marijuana appearing on the November ballot in Arkansas, a new poll suggests that voters prefer Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, over Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act.

The Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll, released Sunday, found 49% in favor (43% opposed) to Issue 6, while just 36% were in favor (53% opposed) to Issue 7.

“With both of them on the ballot, they will both fail, and that’s heartbreaking.” – Melissa Fults, Arkansans for Compassionate Care

This latest poll could spell big trouble for medical marijuana patients in Arkansas, as the two competing initiatives seem to be taking support away from each other, which could cause both measures to ultimately fail in November. In comparison, a Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College poll released in June when only one proposal was expected to appear on the ballot found 58% support for medical marijuana, with just 34% opposed. Both polls used similar sample sizes and polling methodology.

“Arkansas voters do appear to distinguish between the two medical marijuana proposals, according to our survey,” said pollster Roby Brock. “With legal challenges remaining, high-profile opposition, and the possibility of national groups spending money in support of the issue, these proposals may be the most contested on the November ballot.”

The largest difference between the two proposals — in addition to one being a constitutional amendment and the other a state statute — is that Issue 6, the constitutional amendment, does not allow home cultivation under any circumstances. Issue 7, which is the only of the two initiatives to be endorsed by NORML, allows home cultivation for patients living more than 20 miles from a dispensary once the program is up and running.

Other differences between the two proposals include limits on the cost for patient identification cards, the government agency empowered with the responsibility of overseeing the program, and decisions on how the money generated from sales taxes on medical marijuana will be distributed.

Understand the Differences Between Issue 6 and 7

The two proposals take decisively different approaches to legalizing medical marijuana in Arkansas. First and foremost, Issue 6, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA), is a constitutional amendment, whereas Issue 7, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA).

ISSUE 6 – Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment (AMMA)

  • Qualifying Conditions: Cancer; glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe arthritis, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer’s disease, cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain (defined as pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than six months), severe nausea; seizures (characteristic of epilepsy); or severe and persistent muscle spasms (characteristic of multiple sclerosis). The Department of Health would be allowed to add additional conditions down the road.
  • Possession Limits: 2.5 oz.
  • Number of Dispensaries: At least 20, but no more than 40.
  • Home Cultivation: Not allowed under any circumstance.
  • Regulatory Oversight: The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division will create the rules for dispensaries and cultivation facilities, while the Department of Health will determine which conditions qualify and create regulations for patients and the application process. The AMMA will create a new governmental body, the Medical Marijuana Commission, to oversee the licensing of dispensaries.
  • Sales Tax: Medical marijuana will be subject to all state and local taxes. Unlike the AMCA, the AMMA does not explicitly prohibit the state from imposing additional taxes on marijuana sales. Any taxes generated from the sale of medical marijuana will be distributed in four ways:
    • 10% to the medical marijuana program;
    • 10% to the Skills Development Fund;
    • 30% to the state’s General Fund;
    • 50% to the state’s Vocational and Technical Training Special Revenue Fund.
  • Fees: Sets a cap on the fee required to acquire a dispensary or cultivation license, but no limit on the cost for patient card fees.

ISSUE 7 – Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act (AMCA)

  • Qualifying Conditions: Adiposis Dolorosa (Dercum’s Disease); Alzheimer’s or the agitation thereof; Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS); Anorexia; Arnold-Chiari Malformation; Arthritis; Asthma; Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD); Autism; Bipolar Disorder; Bulimia;Cancer; Causalgia; Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy (CIDP); Chronic Insomnia; Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)—Types I and II; Crohn’s Disease; Dystonia; Emphysema; Fibrous Dysplasia; Fibromyalgia; General Anxiety Disorder; Glaucoma; Hepatitis C; Positive Status for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and/or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS); Hydrocephalus; Hydromyelia; Interstitial Cystitis; Lupus; Migraines; Myasthenia Gravis; Myoclonus; Nail-Patella Syndrome; Neurofibromatosis; Parkinson’s Disease; Posterior Lateral Sclerosis(PLS); Post-Concussion Syndrome; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD); Residual Limb and Phantom Pain; Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS); Sjogren’s Syndrome; Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA); Spinal Cord Injury and/or disease (including but not limited to Arachnoiditis); Syringomelia; Tarlov Cysts; Tourette’s Syndrome; Traumatic Brain Injury; or Ulcerative Colitis. In addition, patients will be eligible for medical marijuana in Arkansas if they suffer from a chronic or debilitating disease, medical condition or treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or “Wasting Syndrome;” peripheral neuropathy; intractable pain (pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than three months); severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis. The Department of Health will have the authority to add additional qualifying ailments once the program is operational.
  • Possession Limits: 2.5 oz.
  • Number of Dispensaries: Initially, 38 medical marijuana dispensaries will be authorized statewide. The Department of Health will have the authority to increase that number as they see fit to ensure patient access.
  • Home Cultivation: Patients will be eligible to apply for a hardship cultivation license if they live more than 20 miles from a dispensary. Patients who are approved for a hardship cultivation license would be allowed to grow five mature cannabis plants and five seedlings.
  • Regulatory Oversight: All aspects of the medical marijuana program will be overseen by the Department of Health.
  • Sales Tax: Medical marijuana will be subject to all state and local taxes, but no special marijuana taxes will be allowed to be imposed. All taxes generated from the sale of medical marijuana will be used to support and administer the state’s medical marijuana program. Any surplus taxes not used to administer the medical marijuana program will be used to help reduce the cost of medical marijuana for low income patients.
  • Fees: Sets a cap on the fees required to get dispensary and cultivation licenses andthe fees required for patient cards. Patient registration cards will not be allowed to cost more than $50 per year.

If both questions are approved by voters, the measure that receives more votes in favor will become law, while the other proposal becomes an anecdote to history.

Unfortunately for prospective medical marijuana patients in Arkansas, the dueling measures could mean that both could possibly fail, especially if supporters vote in favor of the proposal they prefer, while voting against the one they don’t.

“Placing another cannabis proposal on the ballot will absolutely cause both to fail, and the sick and dying patients of Arkansas cannot afford to lose this battle,” Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, backers of Issue 7, said earlier this year.

“With both of them on the ballot, they will both fail, and that’s heartbreaking,” she added.

In 2012, ACC successfully placed a similar measure before voters, but that effort was narrowly defeated at the polls 48%-52%.

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