Arkansas Court Disqualifies Medical Marijuana Proposal Days Before Election

Arkansas Court Disqualifies Medical Marijuana Proposal Days Before Election

By Seth Ferranti 10/31/16

Issue 7 was taken off the ballot 12 days before the general election.

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Arkansas Court Disqualifies Medical Marijuana Proposal Days Before Election

The citizens of Arkansas want medical marijuana, but the legislature is putting a ton of obstacles in their path.

Ex-DEA Chief Asa Hutchinson is now Arkansas’ governor and strongly opposes medical marijuana in the state. The Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau have also campaigned against medical marijuana.

There were two medical marijuana proposals in the upcoming election until Arkansas’ Supreme Court disqualified one of the measures, known as Issue 7, even though thousands of voters have already cast ballots in early voting.

In the 5-2 ruling last Thursday, the Supreme Court sided with opponents of Issue 7, who either don’t want medical marijuana on the ballot or who support a competing medical marijuana proposal known as Issue 6.

TV ads have been in regular rotation for Issue 6, the remaining measure on the ballot, which is supported by Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana. David Couch, their spokesman, said the ruling will help Issue 6 pass.

"It eliminates some of the confusion on which one to vote for," David Couch told ABC News. "If you want to help sick and dying patients in Arkansas, then you have to vote for (Issue 6).”

But the proposals have their differences, and proponents of Issue 7—which would have allowed voters to grow their own marijuana if they weren’t in close proximity of a dispensary—claim that voters should have been allowed to make their own choice. With over 12,000 signatures in favor of the measure thrown out by the state Supreme Court, Issue 7 no longer had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

"The people should be permitted to vote on the initiative on November 8, and their votes should be counted," Interim Chief Justice Howard Brill wrote in the dissenting opinion.

Opponents of medical marijuana in Arkansas say the measure being struck down doesn’t change their strategy, as there is still one similar measure on the ballot to vote for. Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, who openly opposes medical cannabis, admitted being concerned about the timing of Issue 7's disqualification. His group previously filed lawsuits against both proposals—not challenging the petitions themselves, but the language in the petitions. 

"Honestly, at this point in the stage, 12 days before the election, it sounds kind of strange, but I actually kind of wish it would have gone to the voters and let them vote it up or down at this point,” Bledsoe told ABC News.

Arkansas Democrats support legalized marijuana but refused to comment on the two proposals and the disqualification of one so close to the election. Former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge, the state’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, said that he supports “responsible” medical marijuana in Arkansas and nationally.

The subterfuge going on with the ballot in Arkansas seems like another political ploy to confuse voters, pit medical marijuana advocates against each other and continue the drug war status quo.

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After landing on the US Marshals Top-15 Most Wanted list and being sentenced to a 25 year sentence in federal prison for a first-time, nonviolent LSD offense, Seth built a writing and journalism career from his cell block. His raw portrayals of prison life and crack era gangsters graced the pages of Don DivaHoopshype and VICE. From prison he established Gorilla Convict, a true-crime publisher and website that documents the stories that the mainstream media can’t get with books like Prison Stories and Street Legends. His story has been covered by The Washington PostThe Washington Times, and Rolling Stone.

Since his release in 2015 he’s worked hard to launch GR1ND Studios, where true crime and comics clash. GR1ND Studios is bringing variety to the comic shelf by way of the American underground. These groundbreaking graphic novels tell the true story of prohibition-era mobsters, inner-city drug lords, and suburban drug dealers. Seth is currently working out of St. Louis, Missouri, writing for The FixVICEOZY, Daily Beast, and Penthouse and moving into the world of film. Check out his first short, Easter Bunny Assassin at sethferranti.com. You can find Seth on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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