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STEVE ELLIOTT

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Issue 7 Campaign Redirects Thousands of Arkansas Grassroots Volunteers to Support Both Initiatives 6 and 7

The Supreme Court of Arkansas on Thursday morning handed down their decision in CV-16-185, disqualifying the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7, for vote. Competing medical marijuana proposal Issue 6 will stay on the ballot.

ACC needed valid signatures from 8 percent of the voters in the last gubernatorial general election; that means 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.

The court threw out signatures for 5 reasons listed in the opinion, reports 40 29 News:

  1. Some of the petition gatherers did not comply with Arkansas laws on who can become a canvasser.
  2. The signatures did not include an address, or included only a P.O. Box address.
  3. The canvasser verified the petition before the voter signed it.
  4. The canvasser checked an improper box.
  5. Canvassers did not specifically witness the signatures.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former head of the DEA, opposes both medical marijuana measures [Arkansas Times]
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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former head of the DEA, opposes both medical marijuana measures
[Arkansas Times]

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.

Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who, mind you, headed the federal Drug Enforcement Administration during the George W. Bush Administration, has spoken out against both Issues 6 and 7. But then again, Gov. Hutchinson predicted a “massive confrontation” between the federal government and the states which legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, and that still hasn’t happened, so maybe this yahoo doesn’t know what the hell he’s babbling about.

Additionally, a coalition of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups — including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau — have been campaigning against both.

The Arkansas Democratic Party’s platform includes general support for legalizing medical marijuana, but the platform remains silent on both ballot measures. The state’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate, former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge, said he supports developing a “responsible” medical marijuana program nationally and in Arkansas, though he isn’t weighing in on the specific proposals.

[Passing It]
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Ryan Denham,
Arkansans for Compassionate Care:

“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”
[Passing It]

“It is painfully clear that Arkansas has work ahead to improve health care considerations for the sick and dying in our state,” reads a Thursday news release from ACC. “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,” the news release reads. “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,” said Ryan Denham, deputy director of Issue 7. “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,” Denham said. “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,” Denham said.

 

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