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Professor Explains Legal Difference Of 2016 Push To Legalize Medical Marijuana

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — On Wednesday (Feb. 17), Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the popular name of an amendment that would legalize medi...

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- On Wednesday (Feb. 17), Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the popular name of an amendment that would legalize medical marijuana.

University of Arkansas law professor Jon Marshfield said the approved description of the proposed amendment would be available to voters if the measure makes it to the November ballot.

"This summary that the attorney approved yesterday is actually a really helpful device for voters to be able to make an informed decision about what they're voting on," Marshfield said.

He said the 2012 push to legalize medical marijuana was in the form of a statute, which requires a simple majority vote to make changes. Marshfield said the push that's happening now is a constitutional amendment with a provision that would require 2/3 majority vote to make any changes to the amendment.

"This isn't just an attempt to amend the constitution," Marshfield said. "There's a provision in this that actually tries to make this more difficult to amend then other provisions of the constitution, so you could almost think of this proposal as a super constitutional amendment."

Attorney David Couch drafted the amendment and he said he has no doubt that if they get the signatures required, voters will pass the measure in November.

"People get that it's medicine," Couch said. "If they treat it like medicine they'll approve it."

Couch will need to gather 85,000 signatures by July 9 to get the amendment on the ballot.

The amendment to legalize medical marijuana is separate and different from the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, which was drafted by Arkansans For Compassionate Care. The attorney general approved the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act in 2014 and the group behind the initiative has been collecting signatures ever since to also get it on the ballot in November.

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