Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, a group which is already fighting one state medical marijuana ballot initiative, has filed a challenge to a competing medical marijuana proposal that was recently approved for the ballot. Pictured: A close-up of marijuana being processed by a commercial Colorado marijuana grower. (Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file)

Anti-marijuana group challenges Arkansas’ other medical pot proposal

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A coalition of groups already trying to block a medical marijuana measure from the Arkansas ballot on Tuesday asked the state’s highest court to also disqualify a competing legalization proposal.

Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana asked the state Supreme Court to prevent election officials from counting any votes for the proposal to allow patients with some conditions to buy and use marijuana. The proposal is among two medical marijuana proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The coalition, which includes the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau, said in its complaint the proposal misleads voters and leaves out material information about the measure’s effects. The claims are similar to those in its lawsuit against the competing medical marijuana measure.

“In my view and in the view of my organization these two pieces of legislation are similar and are almost indistinguishable,” said state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, the coalition’s spokesman.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a medical marijuana proposal four years ago. David Couch, the sponsor of the measure challenged Tuesday, noted that proposal survived a similar challenge before the court and said he was confident his proposal would also prevail.

“I think that the measure accurately represents a fair summary of the initiative,” Couch said. “Nothing’s left out that’s important to the voter.”

Both Couch’s proposal and a competing initiative from Arkansans for Compassionate Care would allow patients with certain conditions to buy marijuana, but differ in their regulations and restrictions. The proposal from Arkansans for Compassionate Care is also fending off a separate challenge from Kara Benca, a Little Rock attorney, which argues the group didn’t follow reporting restrictions for its canvassers.

The lawsuit filed against Couch’s proposal says the ballot title fails to tell voters it would allow dispensaries to sell food and drink that contain marijuana. It also says the ballot title doesn’t tell voters the impact the measure would have on employers, landlords, churches and schools.

For example, the lawsuit notes that under the measure landlords would not be able to refuse to lease to someone who uses medical marijuana and would only be able to prohibit smoking marijuana on their property.