LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A newly-formed coalition sued the Arkansas Secretary of State over a medical marijuana proposal, an action its sponsor says is baseless.
“It wasn’t a surprise,” Melissa Fults said in response to the lawsuit. “As a matter of fact, we were wishing they would hurry up and do it, so we could get it out of the way.”
Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana filed a lawsuit Wednesday to stop the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. The group, which filed its first paperwork two days before, is composed in part by members of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Family Council, and the Arkansas Committee for Ethics Policy.
“I’m whole-heartedly in agreement with taking care of patients. I’m whole-heartedly in agreement in being compassionate, and certainly I’m open to discussion on the recreational side, if that’s something that you believe in strongly,” said state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, the spokesman for the group. “We can have that debate. But all those things have nothing to do with the legislation that’s in front of us. We need to look at what’s written, and when you start peeling it back and looking at it, it’s very concerning.”
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients with a specific set of conditions, and would allow patients who do not live near a dispensary to grow a limited number of cannabis plants for their own use.
According to the lawsuit, the AMCA’s ballot title misleads voters about six things: the amount of marijuana a patient may use; the number of dispensaries that could be permitted; the testing to be performed on marijuana; that dispensaries may sell edibles and marijuana-infused drinks; the effect of the Act on employers and landlords; and that the wording is meant to “appeal to the compassionate and sympathetic instincts of voters.”
“And what that does is, in the process of this legislation, it binds the hands of employers in the hiring and firing of people who are using marijuana,” Bledsoe added.
“You can’t use it at work,” said Fults, the campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care. “You can’t use any medication that, especially if you have a job where you have to work machinery, you can’t use any medication that could slow your reaction time down or anything else. It’s not any different. It says in the initiative you can’t use it at work. They cannot fire you because you’re a patient. But you cannot use any kind of medication like that at work.”
Bledsoe described the group behind the lawsuit as business leaders who are worried about the effect of the Act on the state’s economy.
“You know, their opinions on recreational marijuana are all over the place, but when they look at this legislation, they say this is a bad thing for the state of Arkansas.”
Fults maintained that there are a lot of ways that medical marijuana would be good for the economy, beyond the sales tax revenue.
“You know, it’s not just the employing of people in the dispensaries. You know, there’s security; there’s the hydroponic equipment; the electricity. I mean, there’s so many things that will be involved that will bring so many jobs to the state,” she said.
The lawsuit will go to the Arkansas Supreme Court for a decision. Fults believes it will not take the justices long to side with her.
“I had six attorneys read through it before we turned it in; the AG’s Office approved it,” she stated.
She thinks the lawsuit is a last-ditch effort by conservative groups to stop the vote.
“Their goal is to throw anything off the ballot that they don’t approve of,” she claimed, “whether the Arkansas voters want it or not.”