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David Couch Ready To Deal Attorney General New Marijuana Initiative

2 min read

David Couch, the Little Rock attorney who has already received approval from the state attorney general’s office to collect signatures for two ballot items concerning alcohol laws, says he’s about to pop the cork on something even bigger.

Couch says he expects to deliver to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge this week a reworked initiative making medical marijuana legal in Arkansas.

A similar proposal came this close — 48.5 percent of the vote — to being approved on the 2012 General Election ballot. Since that squeaker, Couch says, he has met with political leaders, both Republican and Democratic, doctors, “faith leaders” and law enforcement officials, and based on their feedback, he has reworked the proposal.

Like the 2012 ballot item, it will permit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes when prescribed by a physician.

But unlike the proposal that failed, it will not allow any patients to grow their own weed. It also splits regulation of medical marijuana between the state Health Department, which will oversee the medical aspects, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, which would then take on the regulation of licensed dispensaries.

And, since Couch says he doesn’t trust legislators to respect the will of the voters, he is drafting this medical marijuana proposal as a constitutional amendment rather than as an initiated act that could then be changed by a two-third supermajority of the Legislature.

Try, Try Again

Couch, you may recall, drafted the “Wet Arkansas” amendment that would have done away with “dry” counties all over the state. It failed in November, but Couch has already gotten the same amendment approved by the AG’s office and plans to collect signatures to put it on the 2016 ballot again.

He has also received approval for an initiated act that would reduce the number of signatures required to put a wet/dry question on a local ballot from 38 percent of registered voters in the jurisdiction to 20 percent.

And he says he’s working with local groups in hopes of meeting the current 38 percent petition requirement to get dry-to-wet questions on the ballot in Polk, Randolph and Johnson counties. A majority of voters in those dry counties favored the “Wet Arkansas” amendment.

Next on Couch’s to-do list: A proposal that would close up the “planned event” exception to the lobbying restrictions included in the ethics amendment that voters approved in November. Couch, using language popularized by the Arkansas Times, called it the “Big Swill Loophole.”

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