LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court said Thursday it will not reconsider its ruling from last week that no votes cast for a proposed initiated act to legalize medical marijuana in the state may be counted.
Without comment, the court decided 5-2 to deny a petition for rehearing filed by Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the sponsor of Issue 7. A proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, Issue 6, remains on the ballot.
On Oct. 27, the Supreme Court ruled that thousands of signatures the group submitted in support of its proposal should not have been validated by the secretary of state’s office because of non-compliance with state laws governing the use of paid canvassers. If those signatures had been thrown out, the measure would not have qualified for the ballot, the court said.
In reaching that decision the court’s majority rejected a report from a special master it had appointed, who found that the measure was properly certified for the ballot.
Chief Justice Howard Brill and Justice Paul Danielson dissented from that decision, saying the court should accept the special master’s findings. They also dissented from the decision Thursday to deny Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s petition for rehearing.
Melissa Fults, campaign manager for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said Thursday she planned to meet with lawyers to discuss legal options. She said it may be too late to save Issue 7, but she said the group will come back with another proposal in the future that, like Issue 7, will be more comprehensive than Issue 6 and include hardship provisions that are not in Issue 6.
Fults also said state laws passed in 2013 and 2015 created requirements for the use of paid canvassers that are virtually impossible to meet. Anyone who has enough money to pay people to review petitions can find enough deficiencies to have a citizen-driven ballot initiative thrown out under those laws, she said.
“We will come back again, and we will make sure that the laws are changed where the average person can do a ballot initiative, and the people’s voice rather than the rich and powerful’s voice are heard,” she said.
Fults, of Hensley, is also a Democratic candidate for the District 27 seat in the Arkansas House. Former state Rep. Andy Mayberry of Hensley is the Republican nominee for the seat, currently held by Mayberry’s wife, Julie Mayberry.
Fults said that if she is elected, a bill to ease burdens on the petition process will be the first legislation she files.