Arkansas residents had 2 medical marijuana proposals to vote on in this November election until Thursday. One of the Arkansas medical marijuana proposals was rejected by the Arkansas Supreme Court for not having the number of signatures legally required on the petition to be on the ballot. The Justices threw out 12,000 signatures, saying that Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the medical marijuana proposal known as Issue 7, didn’t comply with registration laws and the reporting of paid canvassers. This left the petition 2,500 signatures short of what was required to make the ballot.
Potential Confusion at the Polls
The decision came down to a 5-2 ruling, with two Justices believing that the signatures were legal and already approved by a judge. Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote, “The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted.” Now, less than 2 weeks before the election, 142,000 early votes have already been cast, creating some confusion for those who will need to process the ballots.
The Other Option for Arkansas Medical Marijuana
Residents in the state, will still be able to vote on having a legal Arkansas medical marijuana industry as Issue 6, another medical marijuana bill, still remains on the ballot. Both initiatives allowed people suffering from certain conditions, with a doctor’s recommendation, to buy medical marijuana from a dispensary but the disqualified proposal would have allowed people who lived more than 20 miles from a legal dispensary, to grow their own supply. Issue 7 also allowed for many more conditions to qualify for medical marijuana, such as asthma, autism and Parkinson’s Disease, which are all known to be successfully treated with medical marijuana.
Having said that, Issue 6 will still allow those with cancer, AIDS, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s, PTSD and other debilitating conditions to qualify for treatment. So while the disqualification of Issue 7 is disappointing and a setback for people with conditions that don’t qualify or for those who live in more remote areas, at least Issue 6 has the ability to help a lot of people and get an Arkansas medical marijuana industry operational for the future.
A “Bittersweet” Decision
David Couch, who is the head of the group that created Issue 6, called the decision “bittersweet” stating that it will now be easier for voters to vote, since it will eliminate the confusion created by having 2 propositions.
The state’s Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, who has been vocal about his opposition to legalizing marijuana in any capacity said he is concerned by the court’s decision saying, “Honestly, at this point in the stage, 12 days before the election, it sounds kind of strange, but I actually kind of wish it would have gone to the voters and let them vote it up or down at this point.”
Arkansas is 1 of 4 states voting on whether to legalize medical marijuana this November. Currently 25 U.S. states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana programs. Four states and D.C. have also legalized recreational marijuana with no negative consequences and 5 states will vote on the issue this November.