More signatures submitted on Arkansas medical marijuana plan

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Supporters of a plan to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas turned in additional signatures Friday in hopes of qualifying for the November ballot.

If enough signatures are validated, the proposal from Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana will be the second medical marijuana measure on the general election ballot this year. The group needs 84,859 valid signatures to make it onto the ballot, and Secretary of State Mark Martin's office has already verified 72,309 signatures.

The proposal's sponsor, David Couch, said he turned in 34,804 additional signatures Friday and that he's confident the measure will qualify for a public vote.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation to buy marijuana from dispensaries. Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a medical marijuana proposal in 2012, but Couch said he believes voters are more open to the idea of legalizing medical marijuana than they were four years ago.

"I'll be somewhat disappointed if we don't hit 60 percent" of voter support on the ballot, he said. "People get it now. It's different, it's evolved."

Martin's office earlier this year approved a competing medical marijuana proposal for the ballot. Unlike Couch's proposal, the measure already approved would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary.

Both medical marijuana measures face opposition from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson — who is a former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency — the Arkansas Department of Health and the conservative Family Council Action Committee, which has warned the measures could lead to the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

The secretary of state's office is also in the process of validating signatures for a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize casino gambling in three Arkansas border counties.

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