McDaniel allows medical ‘pot’ bid

— Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified a proposed initiated act Monday that would make it legal to use and grow medical marijuana in Arkansas after he substituted a new popular name and ballot title.

Fayetteville-based advocacy group Arkansans for Compassionate Care submitted the initiated act. McDaniel rejected ballot language from the group on Feb. 25 and March 30 for being too ambiguous.

Campaign Director Ryan Denham said the group is OK with McDaniel’s changes. “We’re really happy ... we’re on track to begin the signature-gathering practice,” he said.

Denham said the group is hoping to gather 125,000 signatures in case some are declared invalid.

“I think we have a much bigger presence now” than previous campaigns did, he said.

The ballot title and popular name are what voters would see if it ever gets to the ballot. At this point, no one has started a campaign to gather signatures on a petition to certify it.

Certification of the name and title would clear the way for supporters to gather 62,507 signatures from registered voters to qualify the measure for the November 2012 general election ballot.

McDaniel’s substitution would change the popular name from “An Act to Allow Qualifying Patients in Arkansas to Acquire and Use Medical Marijuana” to “The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act.”

The other major change would move the statement that use, possession and distribution would still be illegal under federal law from the bottom of the ballot title to the second sentence.

Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the federal government and its agencies have the authority to enforce federal drug laws even in a state that allows the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The U.S. attorney general recently said the federal government would not go after people with small amounts of marijuana in states that allow the use of medical marijuana.

Supporters of similar ballot proposals have failed to collect enough signatures to qualify proposals for the ballot in Arkansas during the past decade.

Arkansas, Pages 10 on 04/19/2011

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