LITTLE ROCK The president of the group that rallied to oppose an act that would have allowed the sale and use of medical marijuana for patients with certain conditions said Wednesday that he was surprised by the closeness of the race.
Proponents, meanwhile, said they are already turning their attention toward new efforts for legalizing medical use of the drug.
The state voted down the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, with 51 percent opposing and 49 percent supporting, in a race that wasn't called until early Wednesday morning.
Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, said he expected a race closer to 54-46. He said the tight race will result in even more opposition should the issue be addressed in the state Legislature or through another ballot measure in two years.
He said a number of medical and law enforcement groups that came out against the act didn't expect it would make the ballot, so they had minimal time to plan an opposition campaign.
"I think they'll be much more aware next time," Cox said.
Melissa Fults, treasurer for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said her group will first pursue the issue through the state Legislature. If that fails, she said, it will again go through a petition campaign to get it on the ballot in two years.
"Needless to say, we're disappointed," Fults said by phone Wednesday morning. "But we were so close. We did more than anybody ever believed we'd do. And we'll start right back."
Fults said she believes the closeness of the race could spur legislators to take up the issue even though previous attempts haven't worked. Cox said he doubts the General Assembly would consider a law legalizing medical marijuana.
If it comes to another petition drive, the language in the act will likely change, Fults said. In particular, change is likely to the portion of the act that called for patients living more than 5 miles from a marijuana dispensary to grow their own small plot of plants.
Fults said the changes will need to be discussed in detail within the organization and with its attorney, adding there may still be some personal grow allowance.
"We'll make some language changes," she said. "There were some things that scared people. The 5-mile rule we'll have to deal with. That probably was the only thing that hurt us."