BY MELANIE BUCK –
The election season began with seven issues on the Arkansas ballot and have now been trimmed down to four. Issue 7 joins Issues 4 & 5 as being stricken from the ballot after the Arkansas Supreme Court issued their opinion on Thursday, October 27, 2016. The Ark. Supreme Court invalidated around 12,000 signatures on the petition that allowed the issue to be placed on the ballot. After removing the invalid signatures, only 65,412 valid signatures remained, leaving the issue almost 2,500 signatures short.
Issue 7, The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, would have supported legalizing medical marijuana for 56 qualifying conditions, put the Arkansas Department of Health in charge of implementing the program, and allocating tax revenue to providing low-income patients with medical marijuana. The act would also have allowed some patients to grow their own marijuana if they lived too far from a dispensary.
Reasons for the invalid status and include petition gatherers did not comply with Arkansas laws on who can become a canvasser; signatures did not include an address or included only a P.O. Box address; canvassers verified the petition before the voter signed it; canvasser checked an improper box; canvassers did not specifically witness the signatures.
Issue 6 also involves legalizing medical marijuana but differs from Issue 7 on one main facet. Under Issue 6, medical marijuana could only be purchased through a dispensary, not a ‘grow your own’ program.
Many of Arkansas’ lawmakers have opposed both Issues. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s PAC, Arkansas Farm Bureau Association, Arkansas Hospital Association, dozens of legislators, and many more have all voiced their concerns over the legalization of medical marijuana in the state.
Although early voting began on Monday, October 24, 2016 and Issue 7 still appears on the ballot, any votes cast for or against the issue will not be counted.
Early voting will continue at the Polk County Office Complex at 606 Pine Street through Monday, November 7, 2016. Early voting hours are Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Polk County Election Commission is encouraging voters to be informed ahead of time to help lessen projected long lines and wait times at the polls. The ballot is exceptionally lengthy this year and has many candidates and issues for voters to consider.
The 2016 General Election will be held on Tuesday, November 8, when voters will need to visit their local polling station to cast their votes.