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.

BallotPedia write

Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 (2016)

Arkansas Issue 7, Medical Cannabis Statute

Election date November 8, 2016

Topic Marijuana

Status Not on the ballot

Type State statute

Origin Citizens


Find out with Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup tool


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.[1] 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.[2]

An initiated constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana, titled Issue 6, is also on the November 8 ballot in Arkansas. Compare the provisions of Issue 7 with Issue 6 by clicking here.


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.[51] The Arkansas Supreme Court appointed John Robbins as a special master judge to investigate the claim of invalid signatures.[52]

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.[53][54]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.”[55]

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.[56]

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:[57]

… Kara and I are for the outright legalization of marijuana. … Kara is a life member of NORML and long ago began learning all she could as to the subject matter so we can be advocates for the legalization of marijuana. We know the medical benefits through and through. In my opinion, there is nobody more knowledgeable on the subject of medical marijuana than Kara. She has met with veterans, patients, and supporters of the issue and shares in all of your views. It needs to get to these patients in Arkansas immediately. No question. …

As most of you know, in 2012 medical marijuana was on the ballot. … However, come Election Day 2012, the votes weren’t there and the marijuana initiative was defeated. It begged the question – how did it not pass when their polling suggested it would. David and Melissa polled the issue with those who voted and found that some Arkansans were not comfortable with the “self-grow” provision in the ballot measure. This self-grow provision would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they fell outside a defined zone from a dispensary. Kara and I are in support of this provision. However, since it killed the opportunity to get the much needed medicine to patients in 2012, it was deemed problematic. …

Regarding Issue 7, it was discovered very early on that the ballot measure was collecting signatures in violation of Arkansas law. This was a huge concern as it could (and eventually did) result in the ballot measure being defeated even before votes would be counted. …

We challenged Issue 7 for the above reasons. In sum: 1) it was going to get a challenge from opponents of medical marijuana and we didn’t want those opponents to have a win and a platform on the medical marijuana issue; 2) Issue 6 (the amendment) is better law and keeps the nuts and bolts of implementation out of law maker’s hands; and 3) the most important issue – it literally clears the way for those patients in need to get the drug nearly immediately after its passage. Something that was not likely with Issue 7.

The biggest question of all – what if Issue 6 was not on the ballot? Issue 7 would have been challenged, as we knew it would, and we knew the result, which would have been – no medical marijuana again in 2016. That is why Issue 6 is on the ballot because the sponsors knew that Issue 7 was going to get challenged and any challenge would have, and did, succeed. Without Issue 6, patients would then be left out on a limb. As passionate advocates for medical marijuana, Kara and I could not let that happen. We could not let opponents of medical marijuana successfully challenge Issue 7 because of the grave consequences it would have on medical marijuana as a whole. …

When deciding to find a person to be the petitioner for the challenge, we had the option of putting actual patients, doctors, and other supporters as the “Petitioner.” We did not want patients or doctors or others to be on the receiving end of unfair criticism. These were the people we wanted to protect. So, Kara unflinchingly signed up. That said, she, nor I understood the consequences of that decision. You all are very passionate, and rightfully so, but there is no justification for making the threats that are being made against her, myself, or our children, or saying the hateful things that are being said to all of us. …

I also want to clear up another issue. Our petition was filed at the earliest possible time we could in following the statutes and rules. We did not delay and/or wait until the last minute. We filed it as soon as we legally could. The delay is the responsibility of our law makers. The ballots were printed prior to us even getting into a courtroom to make our challenges. For those who are frustrated that “your vote didn’t count,” you have good reason to be frustrated. You have been disenfranchised, in my opinion. This is not the fault of Kara or I, nor is it the fault of the Arkansas Supreme Court.[9]

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.[58][59] If the legislature follows the governor’s suggestion, a constitutional amendment would have to be referred to the ballot and approved by voters.