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story.lead_photo.caption A voter checks a sample ballot Monday as she waits on the final day of early voting at the Pulaski County Regional Building in Little Rock. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Voters heading to the polls today will be asked to sign petitions on marijuana and term limits.

Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Graph showing information about Ballot Measures.

Of the 12 ballot measures -- initiated acts and constitutional amendments -- approved for the 2016 ballot by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and her predecessor, Dustin McDaniel, five are active, according to an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette survey.

Of those five, petitioners will collect signatures for at least three ballot measures during the primary: The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, The Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment, and the Arkansas Term Limits Amendment of 2016.

"Back in 2012, we were out getting signatures and we had so many young people, but people around my age were just like 'Oh no, oh no, oh no.' So many things have changed," said Melissa Fults, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care. "The number of people my age actually, probably, exceeds the young people that are signing it."

Fults, 61, supports the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, which would allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes under a doctor's guidance. She is also a Democrat running for the District 27 House seat.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care pushed the 2012 Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, which failed after receiving 49 percent of the vote in that year's general election.

Volunteers for the group have already collected more than 50,000 signatures and will be at polls throughout the state today, Fults said.

"We're hoping to have our full 65,000 by the end of March," she said.

David Couch, sponsor of The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016, said he will not be collecting signatures today. He said he is waiting for Rutledge to approve a ballot measure that would allow on-premise consumption of alcohol in dry counties and dry cities.

He said he will use paid canvassers to solicit signatures for both measures at the same time. The delay shouldn't be a problem, he said.

"In 2014, we collected 100,000 in 30 days," he said. "We've got plenty of time to get it done."

Couch worked with Fults on the 2012 medical marijuana measure, but the pair split over a "grow-your-own" provision.

Under Fults' proposal, a patient with a "Hardship Cultivation Certificate" would be able to grow up to 10 cannabis plants in an enclosed, locked facility. A dedicated caregiver would be allowed to cultivate the plants.

Hardship Cultivation Certificates would be provided by the Arkansas Department of Health "based on documentation of the Qualifying Patient's lack of access to a Nonprofit Cannabis Care Center," according to the proposal.

Nonprofit centers would serve as dispensaries.

"Mr. Couch's proposal is designed for a small number of people to make a lot of money on the backs of patients," she said. "There's no affordability clause."

Couch said the state is not ready for the grow-your-own provision, which could decrease the likelihood that a medical-marijuana provision would pass. He said his measure focuses on security.

Couch's measure does not specify how dispensaries can be run, but it would limit the number to 40 in the state. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division of the Department of Finance and Administration would inspect the dispensaries.

"It doesn't allow individuals or dedicated caregivers to grow their own medical marijuana in their house," he said. "It's a totally closed system."

Meanwhile, Robert Reed, who submitted The Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment, said there will be about 20 volunteers asking for voters' signatures in Pulaski, Garland, Faulkner, Conway, Boone and Randolph counties.

Reed said his measure would establish the right to grow the cannabis plant but allows the Legislature to establish the rules for use, whether it's industrial, medical or recreational.

The amendment was approved by McDaniel in June 2014 -- a fact many people don't know, he said.

"Our biggest problem has been all the recent submittals," he said. "Every time there's a submittal, the media fails to mention that there is a seven-sentence amendment for full legalization."

Reed said he has about 4,000 signatures collected so far.

The Arkansas Hemp and Cannabis Amendment is distinct from The Arkansas Hemp and Marijuana Amendment submitted by Mary Berry, which was also approved by McDaniel, Reed said. He said Berry's measure allows anyone 21 and over to grow up to 36 plants.

Berry does not have a listed phone number and did not return a request for comment on Facebook.

Tim Jacob, spokesman for Arkansas Term Limits, said about 100 canvassers will be collecting signatures for the Arkansas Term Limits Amendment of 2016.

He said that when legislators put Issue 3 on the ballot in 2014, they obscured the term-limit change, which allowed lawmakers to serve up to 16 years in the House, Senate or combination of terms in both.

People should sign the petition to "give the voters of this state a fair chance to make a decision they've already passed in two landslide elections," Jacob said.

The measure, which became Amendment 94 to the Arkansas Constitution, also prohibits elected officials from accepting certain gifts from lobbyists, prohibits direct campaign contributions from corporations and unions, and extends the cooling-off period for lawmakers before they can register as lobbyists.

Before Amendment 94, lawmakers had been limited to six years in the House and eight years in the Senate. Some senators had been able to serve 10 years if they drew a two-year term after winning in the election after once-per-decade redistricting.

The ballot measure proposed by Restore Term Limits would limit representatives to six years in office, senators to eight years and a maximum of 10 years for lawmakers who serve in both chambers. It also would prohibit the Legislature from putting future term-limit measures on the ballot.

For constitutional amendments, supporters need 84,859 verified signatures to make the ballot. Initiated acts require 50,916 signatures. Both initiated ballot measures require signatures from at least 15 counties.

If a ballot measure receives enough valid signatures, it appears on the Nov. 8 ballot.

An initiated act creates a statute that may be altered or repealed by the Legislature by a two-thirds vote. An initiated amendment to the Arkansas Constitution may only be changed by another vote of the people unless otherwise specified.

If voters approve two conflicting ballot measures, the one with more votes becomes law.

Metro on 03/01/2016

Print Headline: Voters getting chance to sign 3 ballot issues


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Archived Comments

  • RBBrittain
    March 1, 2016 at 10:28 a.m.

    Of the "inactive" petitions in the graphic, "A Referendum to Approve or Reject the Arkansas Intrastate Commerce Improvement Act" is absolutely dead, NOT just inactive. That was a referendum petition on an act of the legislature's 2015 regular session; the deadline for that kind of petition is generally 90 days after the session adjourns sine die, which has long since passed. Only initiative petitions, or petitions proposing NEW laws or constitutional amendments, may be circulated at the state level right now; they don't have to be turned in till July 8 (four months before the general election).