Society

Court Strikes Down Arkansas Medical Marijuana Measure

| by Zach Cohen

The Arkansas Supreme Court struck down one of two ballot measures to legalize medicinal marijuana because too few people signed a petition in support of the initiative. 

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, known as Issue 7, would have legalized medical marijuana, and also allowed patients to grow up to 10 plants if they lived more than 20 miles from a dispensary. 

Arkansas requires that ballot measures be supported by petitions containing valid signatures from at least 67,887 individuals, which equals 8 percent of those who voted in the last gubernatorial election, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which supported Issue 7, delivered 117,547 signatures. The secretary of state could only validate 77,516 of them.

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The court reviewed the signatures, and "disallowed" 12,104 of them on various grounds. Some of the signatures were obtained by paid canvassers who didn't meet legal standards, like registering with the secretary of state or submitting to background checks. Others contained business addresses or Post Office boxes instead of the required residential addresses. 

With the court's ruling, Issue 7 had about 2,465 too few signatures to appear on the ballot. 

In a concurring opinion, Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson opined that the Arkansas legislature "has made it unduly difficult for measures to be placed on the ballot." She calls the canvasser requirements "arduous and burdensome" and says they "impose a chilling effect on the rights of our citizens to initiate laws."

The challenge to Issue 7 was brought by attorney Kara Benca, who, according to MarijuanaStocks, is a member of the pro-marijuana organization NORML's National Legal Committee. NORML's deputy director, Paul Armentano said the organization has not "picked a side among these dueling initiatives," but that Benca would be "formally discussed ASAP sometime next week."

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The other initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, known as Issue 6, would not allow patients to grow their own plants, and features a more restrictive list of medical conditions that would make a person eligible for medical marijuana, according to BallotPedia. Qualifying conditions under Issue 7 that were excluded from Issue 6 include anorexia, bipolar, insomnia, anxiety and traumatic brain injury, as well as 33 others.

TalkBusiness reports that a poll of Arkansans taken in mid-September showed that 49 percent support Issue 6, 43 percent oppose it and 8 percent aren't sure. This, in contrast to Issue 7, which 55 percent of voters opposed. In 2012, the state faced a similar ballot initiative, which lost 51 percent to 49 percent.

Sources: Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, NWA Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Supreme Court, MarijuanaStocks, BallotPedia, TalkBusiness / Photo credit: Bloomberg News via NWA Democrat-Gazette

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