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Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, Issue 5 (2012)

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Issue 5
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Type:State statute
Referred by:Arkansans for Compassionate Care
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, also known as Issue 5, was an initiated state statute on the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Arkansas, where it was defeated.

The measure sought to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Those who chose to use it for medical purposes would have been free from legal penalty. A group called Arkansans for Compassionate Care were sponsors of the proposed law, which was formally called, "The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act," according to the ballot title.[1][2]

According to reports, patients with possession of cards issued by the state Department of Health would have been allowed to purchase and carry marijuana for medical purposes. Medical marijuana would have been purchased from dispensaries or patients could have grown the cannabis plant themselves, but only a maximum of six plants per person.[3]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results
Arkansas Issue 5 (2012)
Defeatedd No537,89851.44%
Yes 507,757 48.56%

Results via: The Arkansas Secretary of State

Text of measure

The following was the ballot language of the initiative as certified by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel:[4]

Popular name

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act[5]

Ballot title

An act making the medical use of marijuana legal under Arkansas state law, but acknowledging that marijuana use, possession, and distribution for any purpose remain illegal under federal law; establishing a system for the cultivation, acquisition and distribution of marijuana for qualifying patients through nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries and granting those nonprofit dispensaries limited immunity; allowing localities to limit the number of nonprofit dispensaries and to enact reasonable zoning regulations governing their operations; providing that qualifying patients, their designated caregivers and nonprofit dispensary agents shall not be subject to criminal or civil penalties or other forms of discrimination for engaging in or assisting with the patients’ medical use of marijuana; authorizing limited cultivation of marijuana by qualifying patients or designated caregivers if a qualifying patient lives more than five miles from the nearest nonprofit dispensary; authorizing compensation for designated caregivers; requiring that in order to become a qualifying patient, a person submit to the state a written certification from a physician that he or she is suffering from a qualifying medical condition; establishing an initial list of qualifying medical conditions; directing the department of health to establish rules related to the processing of applications for registry identification cards, the operations of nonprofit dispensaries, and the addition of qualifying medical conditions if such additions will enable patients to derive therapeutic benefit from the medical use of marijuana; setting maximum registration fees for nonprofit dispensaries; establishing qualifications for registry identification cards; establishing standards to ensure that qualifying patient and designated caregiver registration information is treated as confidential; directing the department of health to provide the legislature annual quantitative reports about the medical marijuana program; setting certain limitations on the use of medical marijuana by qualifying patients; establishing an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana; establishing registration and operation requirements for nonprofit dispensaries; setting limits on the amount of marijuana a nonprofit dispensary may cultivate and the amount of marijuana a nonprofit dispensary may dispense to a qualifying patient; prohibiting certain conduct by and imposing certain conditions and requirements on physicians, nonprofit dispensaries, nonprofit dispensary agents, qualifying patients, and designated caregivers; establishing a list of felony offenses which preclude certain types of participation in the medical marijuana program; and allowing visiting qualifying patients suffering from qualifying medical conditions to utilize the Arkansas medical marijuana program.[5]



  • Ryan Denham, campaign director for the initiative sponsor group Arkansans for Compassionate Care, stated, "We want to ensure that sick and dying patients in Arkansas have the ability to get the medicine they need and that is sometimes medical marijuana."[6]
  • Ryan Denhem also stated, "It's common sense. It's time to have a policy like this in Arkansas...If that passes, it will allow patients a safe environment, a tightly regulated, controlled environment, to purchase medical marijuana with a doctor's supervision."[7]
  • Paul Coody, who is a paraplegic Navy veteran, said: "I'm a veteran right now who is facing homelessness now because I show positive on marijuana...We've got somebody like me who was living independently but will now be put on the streets because I simply sought to manage my care in the most effective, safe way possible."[8]
  • Arkansas resident Kathy Michaud, who was diagnosed with Hepatitis C 25 years ago, stated, "The marijuana is the only thing I could get to help me eat." Michaud's husband, Laughingbear, commented on how he obtained the marijuana, stating, "If I had to go through it again, I would do it. I would buy marijuana off the street until it's legal and keep my wife alive. I love her that much."[9]



  • Fayetteville, Arkansas resident Roger Murphy was against the measure, and was quoted as saying, "This is not California. This is a safe town. You start promoting that and legalizing that for medical purposes and then it's going to lead to something else and then something else and then it's going to be worse than what it is."[1]
  • The Family Council Action Committee (FCAC) was against the measure.[10]
  • Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe stated he was against the proposal, saying, "I just don’t think I’m going to vote for it. I worry about whether or not it would be abused."[11]
  • A select group of doctors in the state came out against the proposal.


  • Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, argued: "Any individual who can acquire, grow or own his own marijuana is one step away from sharing with his friends who may not have any medical issues."[6]
  • Cox also stated: "This is about legalizing marijuana. It's just a matter of legalizing it in degrees. I think you'd find, if you asked around, that a lot of the same folks who support this support total legalization of marijuana for any purpose. I believe their real agenda is to have marijuana be as legally available as tobacco."[10]


Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox claimed during the week of October 18, 2012 that his group was getting threats from supporters of Issue 5. The group, which opposed the measure, reported that it increased security after receiving these alleged threats. According to Cox, "Security has been an ongoing concern ever since state Democratic Party Chairman Bill Gwatney was brutally murdered at the office next door to ours in 2008, but we have taken additional precautions recently due to all the vitriol coming from folks who want to legalize marijuana...It doesn't matter if ninety-nine out of a hundred people don't make good on their threats. If one person does, that changes everything."[12]

Other perspectives

  • State Sen. Randy Laverty stated that he usually supported marijuana, but that he was undecided on the measure, stating, "I don't know if Arkansas is ready for medicinal marijuana or not. But if they are, I doubt they would want open dispensaries on the corners in various towns."[13]


List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values challenge

After verifying that supporters had turned in enough signatures, Arkansas election officials placed the measure on the fall ballot. But, a coalition of conservative groups called the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values filed a lawsuit against the measure with the Arkansas Supreme Court on August 31. The lawsuit asked that the measure either be stricken from the ballot or that votes for it not be counted. The coalition argued that initiative backers failed to inform voters that even if the measure was approved, medical marijuana users could face prosecution under federal law.[14]

According to reports and documents filed on September 5, 2012, the Arkansas Secretary of State requested that the court dismiss him from the lawsuit. This was not done, however.

The Arkansas Supreme Court stated on September 13, 2012, that it would not hear oral arguments from either side of the lawsuit. Justices denied the requests by both sides, which filed those requests the day before.[15]

On Thursday, September 27, the court ruled in favor of keeping the measure on the ballot. In response to the coalition's argument that the measure failed to properly inform voters, the court wrote, "We hold that it is an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring. Therefore, the act is proper for inclusion on the ballot at the general election on Nov. 6, 2012, and the petition is therefore denied."[16]

Path to the ballot

Supporters were required to collect at least 62,507 by July 6, 2012 in order to get the measure on the ballot. Arkansas ballot law mandates that the ballot measure title must be approved by the Arkansas Attorney General before going into circulation.

On February 25, 2011, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel rejected the proposal, saying that the measure was too ambiguous. Supporters were given the option of re-submitting the proposal. The proposal was submitted again by supporters, but was again rejected on March 14, 2011.

Another submission of ballot language occurred, resulting in another rejection by Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel on March 30, 2011. In that rejection of the ballot title, McDaniel stated in his opinion to the group, "Your use of the word ‘legal’ fails to acknowledge that your proposed measure cannot completely legalize marijuana in Arkansas for medical purposes because the drug remains illegal under federal law." Then on April 18, 2011, revised ballot language was finally approved by the attorney general, allowing supporters to circulate petitions and collect signatures.[17][18][19]

You can read the attorney general's official opinion, giving approval of the title, here.

According to the Arkansas Secretary of State's office, signatures were filed by the deadline. However, supporters of the potential statewide question were allowed 30 additional days to circulate petitions after it was found by the Arkansas Secretary of State's office that not enough valid signatures were collected. Organizers had until August 13 to obtain the additional signatures needed. On that day, supporters turned in additional signatures for the measure, stating confidence in the number of signatures that were submitted. A spokesman for the state secretary of state commented that signatures could be verified by the end of August 2012. Eventually on August 22, 2012, the initiative was found to have enough signatures for the ballot.[20][21][22]

See also

Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1, "Local Group Prepares For Arkansas Medical Marijuana Petition," April 20, 2011
  2., "Ark. group proposing legislation to legalize medical marijuana," May 11, 2010
  3. The Arkansas Times, "The medical marijuana push in Arkansas," March 28, 2012
  4. Attorney General, "Opinion No. 2011-049," April 18, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Public Broadcasting, "Arkansas medical marijuana advocates begin petition," April 25, 2011 (dead link)
  7., "Group gains support to make medical marijuana legal," February 22, 2012
  8., "Arkansans use grassroots effort to try and legalize marijuana," April 1, 2012
  9. Kait 8, "Lawsuit stalls medical marijuana ballot issue, for now," September 14, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1, "Push to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Arkansas Causing Concern," August 23, 2011
  11. Arkansas News, "Beebe won’t support medical marijuana initiative," July 10, 2012
  12. Arkansas Matters, "Little Rock Group Reports Threats from Medical Marijuana Supporters," October 18, 2012
  13. Huffington Post, "Medical marijuana backers seek inroads in South," September 3, 2012
  14. Associated Press, " Groups Ask Arkansas Court to Strike Marijuana Measure," September 4, 2012
  15. The Republic, "Arkansas Supreme Court won't hold oral arguments in lawsuit over medical marijuana," September 13, 2012
  16. Huffington Post, "Arkansas Medical Marijuana Proposal Approved For Ballot Vote," September 27, 2012
  17. Arkansas News, "Ballot proposal for medical marijuana denied," February 25, 2011 (dead link)
  18. Arkansas News, "AG rejects ballot title of proposed medical marijuana amendment," March 30, 2011
  19. Arkansas Times, "Medical marijuana initiative gets OK," April 18, 2011
  20. Hawaii News Daily, "BREAKING: Medical Marijuana Initiative Approved for the Ballot in Arkansas," August 22, 2012
  21. Baxter Bulletin, "Petitions for ballot measures fall short," July 13, 2012
  22. Arkansas News, "Backers of medical marijuana initiative submit new signatures," August 13, 2012