Supporters of legalized medical marijuana in Arkansas said Monday they lacked enough signatures to make the November election ballot, but plan to try again in 2016.
“We got about 80 percent of the signatures, just not enough to turn in unfortunately,” Arkansans for Compassionate Care campaign director Melissa Fults said Monday, the submission deadline for initiated acts and amendments. “It was really disappointing.”
The proposal would have allowed patients with qualifying medical conditions to purchase marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries.
“Voters made a decision on that issue two years ago,” Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee, stated in a news release. “The fact that the measure failed to get enough signatures to make it to the ballot tells me Arkansans are standing by that decision.”
Fults said Arkansans for Compassionate Care collected more than 50,000 of the required 62,507 signatures. About 2,000 were invalid because of clerical mistakes, she added.
“Most of our volunteers are patients, so to have gotten more than 80 percent of the needed signatures, I think, is phenomenal,” she said. “We will start again. We hope to launch the new campaign sometime in September. We’ll have nearly two years this time.”
Groups had until 5 p.m. Monday to submit proposals to the Secretary of State’s Office. By the afternoon, petitions had been turned in by Give Arkansas A Raise Now for a higher minimum wage, and Let Arkansas Decide for statewide alcohol sales.
Give Arkansas A Raise Now’s proposal would raise Arkansas’ minimum wage from $6.25 an hour to $8.50 an hour by 2017. Arkansas is one of only four states with a minimum wage lower than the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.
The group said it turned in 77,288 signatures for the proposal.
Let Arkansas Decide turned in 84,969 signatures Monday to put its proposed constitutional amendment to expand the sale of alcohol on the ballot. The measure needs at least 78,133 signatures from registered voters to qualify.
The proposal by attorney David Couch would allow the manufacture, sale, distribution and transportation of alcohol in every county in the state effective July 1, 2015.
“I set it for July 1 because it is kind of a substantial change for Arkansas to have that many counties turn wet that sudden,” Couch said. “The General Assembly will be in session early that year, so I wanted to give them the opportunity to make whatever needed tweaks there might be.”
Laura Labay with the Secretary of State’s Office said the signatures will soon be counted and verified.
“We’ll go through them and get a count to make sure the number of signatures are there,” she said. “Then we’ll go ahead and start validating signatures to make sure they’re all registered voters.”
If petitions have cleared the initial count but fall short during verification, they’ll have an additional 30 days to gather more signatures.