This year, health initiatives are on the ballot in several states. Two of those states are Florida and Arkansas, and the citizens in those states are currently locked in a heated debate over whether or not to legalize medical marijuana.
The debates going on in these two states are unlike the medical marijuana debates going on elsewhere. Florida is currently the site of the most costly medical marijuana debate in the country, according to reports, and Arkansas is the only state with two competing medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. More importantly, these states are home to millions of people with medical conditions that some say could be improved with access to medical marijuana.
With so much at stake, let’s review what Amendment 2 in Florida, and Issues 6 and 7 in Arkansas, would legalize so Floridians and Arkansans can make the best and most informed decision for their respective states come Election Day.
Florida: Amendment 2
Floridians are not unfamiliar with medical marijuana being on the ballot, having just voted down a similar measure two years ago. This year, the amendment is similar, aside from the slight changes that were made to address the concerns of voters.
What Will Amendment 2 Legalize?
Amendment 2 is calling for the legalization of medical marijuana for people with certain, debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, epilepsy, HIV, and PTSD, among others. A person with debilitating medical conditions that are not explicitly listed in the amendment’s language could also be certified by a licensed physician at the physician's discretion.
Who Would Regulate Medical Marijuana in Florida?
If Amendment 2 passes, the Department of Health would regulate the production, and sale, as well as issue ID cards for patients and caregivers. This would not be a wholly new undertaking for the Florida DOH, as the state already has a small medical marijuana program in place for low-THC cannabis.This program limits the potential number of people who could benefit from medical marijuana though, and Amendment 2 would vastly expand its availability.
Who Are The Stakeholders?
Proponents of the amendment are led by United for Care, and our founder John Morgan, who sees medical marijuana as way to improve care and the quality of life for patients with debilitating medical conditions, including military veterans. Opponents of the initiative are led by Drug Free Florida, and its main benefactor Mel Sembler and his friend, casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Drug Free Florida argues that Amendment 2 is a “scam to legalize pot,” and would bring nearly 2,000 pot shops to Florida that could endanger children and Florida’s communities. The group is also concerned that Amendment 2 would legalize medical marijuana like California, where it is essentially medical in name only.
Whatever your stance, polls seem to indicate that Amendment 2 is going to pass. The 60 percent supermajority that Florida requires to pass a constitutional amendment makes no ballot initiative a sure thing, though, meaning it is even more important than usual to get out and vote for what you believe in on Election Day. For those Floridians who aren't registered, a judge recently extended the registration deadline to Oct. 18.
Arkansas: Issues 6 and 7
Arkansans are faced with a particularly difficult decision on Election Day, because not only do they have to decide if they want medical marijuana in their state, they must also choose how they want it.
What’s the Difference Between Issues 6 and 7?
There are two competing medical marijuana initiatives in Arkansas this year, and the most basic difference between the two is the type of referendum they are. Issue 6, known as the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, is a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Arkansas Legislature from making medical marijuana illegal again without voter approval, according to Ballotpedia.
Issue 7 on the other hand, known as the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, is an initiated state statute, which is similar to any law brought up for vote by the Arkansas Legislature. If Issue 7 passes, the Arkansas Legislature could make medical marijuana illegal again with a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber.
Another key difference between the two Issues is the number of conditions medical marijuana would be permitted to treat. Issue 6 permits medical marijuana use for 17 conditions, while Issue 7 permits it for 56.
Why Are There Two Initiatives on The Ballot?
The reason there are two initiatives on the ballot this year is largely due to a disagreement over the “grow your own” provision. Issue 7 would allow patients who live more than 20 miles from a dispensary to grow their own marijuana, while Issue 6 would not.
The complete list of differences is too long to list here, but if you visit Ballotpedia there is an easy to read breakdown of just how different medical marijuana will be depending on which Issue, if either, passes.
The Perspectives in Arkansas
There are also plenty of people in Arkansas who do not support medical marijuana at all. These objections are typical of anti-medical marijuana groups around the country, citing the dangers to children, the state’s communities, and the lack of scientific evidence of marijuana’s effectiveness as medicine.
All of the competing opinions makes it difficult to choose what is best for Arkansas come Election Day. For example, even if 60 percent of voters in Arkansas approve of medical marijuana, that vote could be split among the initiatives, and then neither issue will pass.
Make Your Voice Heard on Nov. 8
Eligible voters need to make their voices heard on Election Day. If you have any other questions or concerns about voting before you head to the polls next month, take a look at our guide answering five big questions about voting.
Note: This is the final post in a series on Election 2016. Previously, we wrote about how some states mandate time off for workers to go vote. You could be one of those workers.