Things are getting a little bit crazy in Arkansas right now. After over 150,000 people already turned their votes in early, Issue 7 has been taken off of the ballot by the Supreme Court’s ruling this week. Back in September, it was announced that both medical marijuana initiatives – The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act and the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment – had been approved for the ballot. However, they also still both had legal challenges pending at the time. Those against the Amendment were dropped – but issues regarding petition signatures were upheld in court this week, disqualifying the Medical Cannabis Act.
Originally, a judge had decided to allow the signatures, which were being challenged in court for various reasons, but the main reason was because they were collected by paid canvassers who did not meet state criteria or who did not disclose that they were paid for their time. However, the decision was appealed and brought to the Supreme Court who ended up disqualifying over 12,000 signatures due to those reasons, as well as things such as not having an address, or the address being a P.O. box, or a canvasser validated the petition before the voter actually signed it.
With all the signatures they decided were invalid, Arkansans for Compassionate Care fell just under 2,500 signatures short of the 67,887 that were needed to qualify. Seeing as the initiative had already been put on the ballot as Issue 7, it will remain on the ballots – however the votes will not be counted even if people choose to vote for the amendment. For some who have already cast their votes as early voters, this is a problem – because they voted for Issue 7, but not Issue 6, the Amendment that will remain on the ballot. Some have said if they had known that vote wouldn’t matter, they might have voted for Issue 6 as well, or instead.
The group running the campaign has said that they intend to try and appeal the decision – however the Supreme Court ruling had been effective immediately, meaning there is a good chance an appeal won’t matter at this point. After all the hard work that this group has put into trying to get their initiative on the ballot, it is extremely discouraging to see it removed even after the ballots are printed and being cast. It would have been better if the court had gotten this decision pushed through prior to the start of early voting at the very least.
Now Arkansans only have one option left to pass a medical marijuana law in their state during this election – and hopefully it will pass. If it doesn’t, there has been recent talk about introducing a CBD oil bill through legislature – however that sort of bill will not be able to provide relief to nearly the amount of patients as the Medical Marijuana Amendment would.