Arguments coming in on signatures for the medical marijuana act | Arkansas Blog

Friday, September 23, 2016

Arguments coming in on signatures for the medical marijuana act

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 10:12 AM

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Court filings are coming in today from parties involved in the challenge of signatures on the petitions for an initiated act to allow sale of medical marijuana from non-profit outlets.

First up is the secretary of state. I'll post the full filing, but a key part of the challenge — a lawsuit aided with help including money from sponsors of a medical marijuana amendment — covers some 5,000 signatures gathered during a time when a new state law on signature gathering had been struck down by a circuit court. The Arkansas Supreme Court later reinstated parts of that law, putting some new requirements for paid canvassers back in place.

The secretary of state's proposed findings of fact defend the office's certification of the measure for the ballot. It defends decisions on issues where there were some discrepancies in dates or failure to check boxes, such as for paid canvassers. Some were clerical errors. Others, said the secretary of state, could be explained by other circumstances and supported by the broad protection the Arkansas Constitution gives to those seeking to reach the ballot.


The sponsors of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act also have filed their proposed findings. They also argue that signatures were sufficient and dealt point-by-point with arguments made in the lawsuit by Kara Benca, nominally an advocate of marijuana decriminalization. The expert witness for the challenge is to be paid by sponsors of the marijuana amendment, the sponsors of the act noted.

A key argument by sponsors of the act is that most of its signatures were gathered by people who weren't paid and didn't expect to be paid and thus were exempt from rules for paid canvassers. Several volunteers were challenged for using business addresses rather than personal addresses, for example. The pleading concluded:

Whatever the number, plaintiff has failed her burden of proof to disqualify enough signatures to get the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act below 67,887 to disqualify it from the ballot.

Retired Judge John Robbins was appointed as a special master to consider the portion of the legal challenge about signatures. He's to issue findings next week. The Supreme Court Thursday upheld the sufficiency of the title of the amendment, which had been challenged in a separate lawsuit backed by the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Arkansas Farm Bureau.

UPDATE: Late this afternoon, the plaintiff in the ballot challenge filed proposed findings to underscore their argument the signatures aren't sufficient. I'm trying to get a copy.

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