What a long, strange trip Arkansas advocates have had fighting to legalize medical cannabis in their state. Voters narrowly refused to pass a medicinal law in 2012 and activists certainly have had many reasons to be optimistic of success in 2016, as support has increased across the nation.
Complications arose when two medical measures qualified for the ballot this year and controversy ensued when a lawsuit was filed to invalidate the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, on the ballot as Issue 7. The legal challenge raised many eyebrows because it was brought by a lifetime member of NORML, but without any involvement by the reform legalization.
The Arkansas Supreme Court today agreed with the lawsuit calling for the disqualification of Issue 7. Proponents of Issue 7, the Arkansans for Compassionate Care, sent out a press release, urging voters to vote “YES” on both Issue 6 and Issue 7, ensuring that a medical cannabis law will pass in the Natural State:
This morning the Supreme Court of Arkansas handed down their decision in CV-16-185, disqualifying the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act for vote.
ACC needed valid signatures from 8 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial general election; 67,887 signatures of registered voters are required in order for the Ballot Measure to be placed on the November 8, 2016, general election ballot. Of the 117, 547 signatures submitted, 77, 516 were validated by the Arkansas Secretary of State. Kara Benca needed to invalidate 9,629 to have issue 7 removed from the ballot. It is important to note that because the Arkansans for Compassionate Care had more than the number of required signatures at the time of submission and validation, they were not allowed to continue collecting.It is painfully clear that Arkansas has work ahead to improve health care considerations for the sick and dying in our state. There is no denying that the combination of big money and strategic use of the law have been determining factors in this decision, and as compassionate Arkansans, we need to consider what’s best for patients. The sponsors of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act will fight this decision, but the priority for compassionate Arkansans is and has always been that patients have safe access to medical cannabis. We encourage Arkansans to take a stand for democracy using your vote as your voice for yes to medical cannabis patients (to vote) yes on both Issue 7 and Issue 6, ensuring that there will be lawful protection for medical cannabis patients.“It’s not easy reversing 80 years of cannabis prohibition. ACC placed a medical cannabis law on the ballot in 2012 and we were narrowly defeated. We came back with an army of volunteers and successfully placed Issue 7 on the ballot. We’ve been up against many hurdles including the Governor, Attorney General, Surgeon General, a competing campaign and two lawsuits. We will keep fighting, ensure that no patient faces arrest for using a safe and effective medicine, whether that protection comes from Issue 6 or Issue 7.” Said Ryan Denham, Deputy Director of Issue 7.
This has to be just heartbreaking for Arkansans for Compassionate Care and their supporters. As a veteran of successful and unsuccessful petition drives and elections, I understand the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to dedicate yourselves to these efforts and my sympathies go out to them. No matter how this shakes out, hopefully patients in Arkansas will finally have a workable medical law that will provide them safe access to a safe medicine that will improve their lives.