Retired Judge John Robbins, sitting by Arkansas Supreme Court appointment, has found that sufficient signatures were gathered to put the medical marijuana initiated act on the ballot.
The party that filed the lawsuit can contest that finding and the Arkansas Supreme Court will have the final say. The Court earlier had rejected a separate challenge to the ballot title. More background here.
The secretary of state’s office had validated more than 77,000 signatures, with 67,887 needed. The lawsuit said 15,000 signatures should not have been accepted. More than 8,000 were challenged for failure to comply with new provisions in the law for paid canvassers. But Robbins found that most of those canvassers were volunteers and unpaid. The challenger didn’t identify any canvassers who were paid and didn’t meet requirements such as a criminal background check.
Robbins did disqualify 2,087 signatures of voters who used business addresses, rather than a residence. Many other challenges, such as failing to check a box for paid canvassers, amounted to technical or clerical errors that shouldn’t disqualify a signature. He also said the petitioner had failed to prove that some 2,500 signatures hadn’t been properly witnessed.
In the end, he found 75,429 valid signatures, more than enough to qualify. He added that, if the Supreme Court held that the petition law that applied when signature gathering began in 2014 and not a later law aimed at making paid canvassing harder, he would have discounted no signatures.
A lawsuit is also pending challenging the ballot title of a medical marijuana amendment. It provides for for-profit sales. The initiated act sets up non-profit sales and allows a limited ability to grow marijuana for people distant from dispensaries.
The Hutchinson administration and business and farm lobbies are strenuously opposing both medical marijuana measures. The governor will have a news conference tomorrow to talk about the perils of medical marijuana use in the workplace, an argument proponents have previously disputed.
Both marijuana measures will appear on the ballot. The lawsuits seek to have the votes not counted. Briefing on the signature challenge will run through mid-October.