Retired Judge John B. Robbins was appointed by the court to review Arkansas medical marijuana signatures as justices consider a lawsuit aimed at blocking votes on it in the November election. Pictured: Medical cannabis on display at a Colorado dispensary. (Joe Amon, Denver Post file)

Retired judge: More than enough Arkansas medical marijuana signatures valid

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A retired judge appointed by the state Supreme Court to review an Arkansas medical marijuana initiative’s petitions as part of a lawsuit said Tuesday that more than enough valid signatures were submitted for the proposal.

Separately, the Supreme Court said it wouldn’t reconsider its decision to reject another lawsuit trying to block the proposal.

Retired Judge John B. Robbins said in a report issued to the court that he disqualified 2,087 of the signatures submitted and approved by election officials for the proposal, leaving it with 75,429 valid signatures. The proposal needed at least 67,887 signatures from registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Robbins was appointed by the court to review the signatures as justices consider a lawsuit aimed at blocking votes on it in the November election. The lawsuit had challenged more than 15,000 signatures submitted, arguing supporters of the proposal didn’t follow state law for reporting and registering paid canvassers.

The lawsuit filed by Little Rock attorney Kara Benca also claims the proposal’s wording is misleading to voters. Patrick Benca, her husband and attorney in the case, did not immediately return a call Tuesday afternoon.

The head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the measure, said she was “thrilled” with Robbins’ findings.

“I can only hope the Supreme Court accepts his findings and we will continue to be on the ballot and after Nov. 8 Arkansas will be able to legally allow patients to have access to medical cannabis,” Campaign Director Melissa Fults said.

Robbins said the 2,087 signatures should be disqualified because the paid canvassers registered using a business address rather than a home address. He also said the court could uphold all of the signatures if justices rule the paid canvasser restrictions didn’t apply since the law imposing the requirements was in the midst of a legal challenge during part of the signature gathering drive.

Justices on Tuesday also denied a petition to rehear the court’s decision to reject a separate challenge to the medical pot proposal by a coalition of groups that includes the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau. The court is considering a separate challenge by that coalition against a competing medical marijuana proposal.

Voters narrowly rejected legalizing Arkansas medical marijuana four years ago.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at @ademillo