Pubdate: Sat, 03 Sep 2016
Source: Sentinel-Record, The (AR)
Copyright: 2016 The Sentinel-Record, Inc.
Author: Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press


LITTLE ROCK (AP) - The Arkansas Supreme Court was asked Friday to 
disqualify an effort to legalize medical marijuana over potentially 
invalid signatures, the second challenge filed against a ballot 
measure to make the drug available to some patients.

Attorney Kara Benca of Little Rock questioned the validity of 
thousands of signatures that were submitted for the proposal allowing 
patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana. The 
measure is among two medical marijuana proposals on the November ballot.

Benca, who didn't immediately return a message late Friday afternoon, 
claimed more than 15,000 signatures that were submitted for the 
proposal should be tossed out. Benca identifies herself in the 
lawsuit as a life-member of the National Organization for the Reform 
of Marijuana Laws, which supports legalizing the drug.

Her complaint includes claims that the group behind the measure did 
not following reporting requirements for paid canvassers and that 
some petitions were left unattended for people to sign for the 
measure. Benca asked the court to prevent state officials from 
counting any votes for the measure in the Nov. 8 election.

Melissa Fults, the campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate 
Care, said she was confident the challenge would be defeated and said 
the group had the proper paperwork for its petitions.

"We should be running a campaign to get this passed for sick and 
dying patients and instead we have to deal with bogus lawsuits," Fults said.

David Couch, the sponsor of the competing medical marijuana proposal, 
said he wasn't directly involved in the lawsuit but shared 
information with the attorneys in the case about problems he had 
found with the canvasser registration and reporting for Fults' proposal.

"I gave them information and I believe if (Fults' group) violated the 
rules they should be taken off (the ballot)," Couch said.

A separate challenge was filed with the court last month by a 
coalition of groups opposed to the measure, including the state 
Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau. That challenge 
argues the proposal's language is misleading to voters.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected medical marijuana four years ago. 
The proposals face opposition from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a 
former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

State Democrats last week endorsed legalizing medical marijuana in 
their platform, but haven't taken a stance on the ballot measures.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom