- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Latest on the Arkansas Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify one of two medical marijuana proposals from the November ballot (all times local):

2 p.m.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the Legislature should look at moving up the deadline for submitting ballot measure petitions after the state Supreme Court disqualified a medical marijuana initiative less than two weeks before Election Day.

The Republican governor said Thursday that even though he opposed Issue 7, the court will cause voter confusion by blocking election officials from counting votes cast for the measure. A competing medical marijuana proposal, Issue 6, has not been disqualified.

Hutchinson said having an earlier deadline for submitting petitions will prevent the court from having to make decisions on initiatives so close to Election Day. The current deadline for submitting petitions is four months before the election, and changing it would require amending the state constitution.

Hutchinson is a former head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and has been an outspoken opponent of legalizing medical marijuana.

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1:25 p.m.

The group behind a medical marijuana proposal disqualified from Arkansas’ ballot is urging its supporters to back both legalization measures next month.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care said Thursday it’ll fight the decision by the state Supreme Court to disqualify Issue 7 after justices said the group didn’t comply with reporting and registration requirements for paid canvassers. It was unclear how the group would fight the move since the decision took effect immediately.

The group urged supporters to back both its proposal and Issue 6, the competing measure that remains on the ballot. The group says voting for both will ensure there are legal protections for patients who use medical cannabis.

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12:35 p.m.

Democratic Senate hopeful Conner Eldridge says he supports a ballot proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas after a competing measure was disqualified.

The former federal prosecutor on Thursday said he supports Issue 6, which would allow patients with certain conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries. Eldridge announced his support after the state Supreme Court blocked any votes counted for Issue 7, a competing measure.

Eldridge is running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, who has said he opposes both measures. Eldridge in August announced he generally supports legalizing medical marijuana, but had stopped short of endorsing either proposal

Eldridge said in a statement he believed the proposal was a responsible medical marijuana program for the state.

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11:15 a.m.

The head of a medical marijuana initiative campaign says he thinks his proposal will be helped by the state Supreme Court’s decision to disqualify a competing measure on the November ballot.

David Couch with Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana called the ruling Thursday against Issue 7 “bittersweet.” Couch’s group is behind Issue 6, which has not been disqualified.

Couch says justices made the right decision when they said the group behind Issue 7 didn’t comply with registration and reporting requirements for paid canvassers. But Couch says he remains opposed to the law that imposed those requirements on initiative campaigns.

He says he thinks the ruling will help his proposal because it eliminates any confusion voters may have had about the two measures.

Couch had provided information about problems with Issue 7’s petitions to the attorneys whose suit led to Thursday’s decision.

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10:30 a.m.

A social conservative group opposed to medical marijuana says the Arkansas Supreme Court did the right thing by disqualifying from the ballot one of two proposals legalizing the drug for patients.

Family Council Action Committee Executive Director Jerry Cox said in a statement Thursday that the court’s ruling against Issue 7 over its signatures was the right move. But Cox said he believes the remaining medical marijuana proposal, known as Issue 6, is just as bad if not worse.

Cox cited concerns about the impact the measure would have on schools and employers.

The committee was part of a coalition of groups that have campaigned against both medical marijuana proposals.

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10:15 a.m.

Arkansas’ surgeon general says he wishes voters, rather than the courts, could have determined the fate of a plan legalizing medical marijuana in the state.

Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe is a spokesman for a coalition opposing the legalization of medical marijuana. He told The Associated Press on Thursday that he’s concerned about the Arkansas Supreme Court striking the ballot proposal, known as Issue 7, so close to the election.

The Arkansas Secretary of State’s office says nearly 142,000 people have cast ballots so far since early voting began Monday.

Bledsoe says that even though he disagrees with the marijuana plan, he wishes that the court would have let Arkansans “vote it up or down at this point.”

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9:45 a.m.

Arkansas’ top court cited problems with signatures gathered by canvassers in its ruling that disqualified a medical marijuana proposal from the November ballot.

Supreme Court justices on Thursday tossed out more than 12,000 signatures that were approved by election officials for the proposal, saying supporters didn’t comply with laws regarding registration and reporting of paid canvassers. The decision left the group nearly 2,500 signatures shy of what was needed to qualify for the ballot.

Arkansas voters will still be able to consider a competing plan legalizing the drug for medicinal uses.

Two justices disagreed with the opinion, noting that a retired judge assigned by the court to review the petitions had said more than enough valid signatures were submitted.

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9:05 a.m.

The Arkansas Supreme Court has disqualified a medical marijuana proposal from the November ballot, but voters will still be able to consider a competing plan.

Justices on Thursday sided with opponents of the proposed initiated act that would have allowed patients with certain medical conditions and a doctor’s recommendation to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. The court ordered state officials to not count any votes cast for the measure in the Nov. 8 election. Early voting began Monday.

The proposal was one of two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot. Justices earlier this month rejected a challenge to a similar proposal.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana four years ago. Advocates had cast the proposals as a way to prove there’s support for medical marijuana, even in conservative states.


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