The campaign behind a medical marijuana proposal disqualified from Arkansas' ballot days after early voting began asked the state Supreme Court Monday to consider reinstating the measure, saying the ruling would make it more difficult for grassroots groups to put initiatives on the ballot.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care filed a petition for rehearing with the court over its decision last week ordering election officials to not count any votes cast for the medical pot proposal, also known as Issue 7. In the 5-2 ruling Thursday, justices said the campaign didn't follow state law regarding reporting and registration of paid canvassers. The court tossed more than 12,000 signatures that had been submitted by the group and approved by election officials to place the measure on the ballot.
In Monday's filing, attorneys for the Issue 7 campaign said the 2013 law that imposed the restrictions on paid canvassers are unfair to smaller groups with less money that want to put proposals before the voters.
"The Legislature essentially created a trap because it upended many years of prior practice. Issue 7 is the first catch in that trap," the group said in its filing. "If this decision stands, there may be no future grassroots efforts simply because of lack of money."
The state Supreme Court rarely grants petitions for rehearing. The proposal is one of two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot. A competing proposal, known as Issue 6, survived a separate legal challenge over its wording and has not been disqualified. Both proposals would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries, but differ in their restrictions and regulations. Issue 7, for example, would allow patients who don't live near a dispensary to grow their own marijuana.
The timing of the court's ruling last week — just three days after the start of early voting — prompted criticism from both supporters and opponents of medical marijuana. The state surgeon general, a spokesman for a coalition of groups campaigning against legalization, has said he thinks voters should have had the chance to vote on Issue 7. More than 262,000 voters have cast a ballot early, the secretary of state's office said Monday.
Arkansas voters narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana four years ago.