31 October 2016
4029 TV reports
A group of people gathered outside the Washington County Courthouse on Saturday to protest Issue 7.
Days after early voting started, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, which would have legalized medical marijuana in the state for patients with qualifying conditions.
For the people who voted in favor of Issue 7 during the first three days of early voting, their votes no longer count toward that ballot measure.
Protesters told 40/29 they’re upset and they feel like the supreme court’s decision is undermining democracy.
Abel Tomlinson, who is part of the campaign organization, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, that was sponsoring the medical marijuana act.
The group’s main concern is for all the sick people who they believe are in need of medical cannabis.
“The most powerful thing that could convenience anyone that’s on the fence, or undecided or against cannabis, it’s because they’ve never met any sick people who have needed it. Or, they’ve never seen how it could help them,” Tomlinson said. “Once someone in your family gets sick, or the pain pills don’t work or the seizure medicine doesn’t work for your child, you’ll be convinced immediately especially when you see how it works.”
Jennifer Cunningham, who was among those protesting, told 40/ 29 she watched her sister die of lung cancer, but medical cannabis was the only thing that helped ease her pain.
“My sister was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. She was a small woman to begin with, but in order to keep weight on her during her chemo and radiation, we had to give her marijuana just so she’d have an appetite and be able to eat at least a healthy meal,” she said. “When she didn’t have it, is when she wasn’t feeling well, her hair was falling out more. But by the time we started the marijuana with her she was able to get up to 117 to 122 pounds before she passed away.”
Arkansans for Compassionate Care are urging people to reach out to their legislators and supreme court justices to voice their feelings.
The group is also looking into possibly filing a federal lawsuit to challenge the high court’s decision.
To remind you of what happened last week
Thursday morning (Oct. 27) the Arkansas Supreme Court disqualified a medical marijuana proposal (7) that was to appear on the ballot in the November Election, ruling that the ballot failed to receive enough qualified signatures.
The court ruled the issue failed to get the required 67,887 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, after disqualifying more than 12,000 signatures, according to court documents. Now the issue is nearly 2,500 signatures shy of the ballot requirement.
The court sided with a petition against the amendment stating that the Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin incorrectly counted some of the signatures collected by Arkansans for Compassionate Care 2016, specifically some that were gathered by paid canvassers who didn’t meet proper state guidelines.
Although the ballot will still appear on the November Ballot. However, the measure cannot be passed.
Issue 7 would have legalized marijuana for medical use, as well as allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries. Patients who live more than 20 miles from a dispensary would have been allowed to grow a limited amount.
Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 (2016)
Arkansas Issue 7, Medical Cannabis Statute
Election date November 8, 2016
Status Not on the ballot
Type State statute
WHAT’S ON YOUR BALLOT?
A “yes” vote would have supported legalizing medical marijuana for 56 qualifying conditions, putting the Arkansas Department of Health in charge of implementing the program, and allocating tax revenue to providing low-income patients with medical marijuana.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, also known as Issue 7, will not appear on the November 8, 2016, ballot in Arkansas as an initiated state statute. The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot in Benca v. Martin on October 27, 2016, on the basis of invalid signatures. The measure will still appear on the ballot, but results will not be counted.
A “no” vote would have opposed this proposal to legalize medical marijuana.
More Detail on Benca vs Martin
Benca v. Martin
Kara Benca, a pro-legalization lawyer, filed litigation against Secretary of State Mark Martin on September 19, 2016. Benca argued that 15,000 signatures collected for Issue 7 were improperly counted by the Office of the Arkansas Secretary of State. David Couch, sponsor of competing measure Issue 6, said he provided Benca with some information. The Arkansas Supreme Court appointed John Robbins as a special master judge to investigate the claim of invalid signatures.
On September 27, 2016, Judge John Robbins disqualified 2,087 signatures, leaving the total number of signatures at 75,429. As the initiative needed 67,887 valid signatures, Issue 7 still had more than enough signatures to remain on the ballot.
The Arkansas Supreme Court struck Issue 7 from the ballot on October 27, 2016, disagreeing with much of the master judge’s conclusions. The court explained the disagreement, saying, “… our standard of review is that we will accept the master’s findings of fact unless they are clearly erroneous.” In a five-to-two ruling, the court invalidated 12,104 signatures, bringing the total number of valid signatures down to 65,412 or 2,465 less than the 67,887 required for certification.
The court agreed with Benca that 8,620 signatures were invalid because the measure’s sponsors failed to conduct state police background checks within 30 days prior to registering them or failed to properly follow paid canvasser requirements. Another 3,329 signatures were disqualified because residential addresses of the canvassers were not included on petitions, as required by state law. The court determined that P.O. box addresses and business addresses were not equivalent to residential addresses. An additional 104 signatures were disqualified because some canvassers verified petitions before voters signed them.
Justice Howard Brill dissented from the court’s ruling, stating, “The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted.”
David Couch, sponsor of competing marijuana initiative Issue 6, called the ruling “bittersweet.” He believes the ruling will help his proposal by eliminating voter confusion about the two measures.
Benca & Benca’s response to Benca v. Martin
Kara Benca, the plaintiff in Benca v. Martin, and her husband, Patrick Benca, own the law firm Benca & Benca based in Little Rock. On October 28, Patrick Benca explained his firm’s motivation in challenging Issue 7. The following is an excerpt from his statement:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s response to Benca v. Martin
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), an opponent of Issue 7, suggested the Arkansas Legislature develop a constitutional amendment that would move the deadline for signature petitions to an earlier date. He expressed concern that the multiple decertified initiatives on the ballot would confuse voters at the ballot box. By moving the deadline to an earlier date, the courts would not need to make decisions as close to an election. If the legislature follows the governor’s suggestion, a constitutional amendment would have to be referred to the ballot and approved by voters.