Region 8 residents protest removal of Issue 7

Region 8 residents protest removal of Issue 7
(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A group of Region 8 residents spent their noon hour in protest at the Veteran's Memorial outside the Craighead County Courthouse on Tuesday.

Volunteers waved signs about Issue 7 and called out to motorists and pedestrians passing by.

Regional Director for the Arkansans for Compassionate Care Campaign, Gail Rasberry, said they couldn't let the removal of Issue 7 being taken off the ballot go unnoticed.

"Hundreds of volunteers across this state," Rasberry said.  "Have spent two years of their lives dedicated to obtaining petition signatures and getting the Medical Cannabis Act back on the ballot. We were successful. We had one hundred and seventeen thousand signatures. They were approved and we were placed on the ballot by the Secretary of State's office. The lawsuit that resulted from our competing campaign who paid his professional signature collectors to go through our signatures and file a lawsuit to get us thrown off the ballot. The thing about it is they hired a Master Judge to review the case. The Master Judge recommended that we remain on the ballot. The Master Judge recommended that the only signatures that should be removed were a small number and we still had enough to be on the ballot. The Arkansas Supreme Court has gone against the recommendation of their own Master Judge and thrown us off the ballot after voting has begun."

Rasberry said they believe they followed all the rules to the letter.

"The handbook that our campaign has adhered to," Rasberry said. "And has been stringently critiqued by is the Initiatives and Referendum Handbook. And that handbook clearly states that any challenge to our petition must be pushed through court and the decision must be made before the election. Now, I don't know about anybody else, but the election begins when the first ballot is cast. Otherwise, when you start saying even though this election has already begun and thousands of Arkansans have already voted, 'Never mind, your vote didn't count for this.' And that's what we're standing up for is the democracy. The ability of Arkansas residents to put initiatives on the ballot and have them remain there without a big money campaign filing a lawsuit and the Arkansas Supreme Court going against the recommendation of their own Master Judge in his ruling of what should occur."

Rasberry said Issue 7 matters to her.

"Issue 7 is important to me," Rasberry said. "Number one, it's regulated only by the Health Department. They can decide what conditions get added. The decide what modifications need to be made to the program based on the needs of the patients using the program. There is absolutely no reason for the alcohol board to be involved in any way, shape or form."

Rasberry said it's about helping those in need.

"The patients of this state, especially the low-income patients, in this state deserve to have an option where their medicine costs will be based on their income," Rasberry said. "The patients that use our program and pay the tax on the products will fund the program that helps those low-income patients be able to afford it and pay a rate that's based on their income rather than what the alcohol board decides they want to charge them."

Rasberry said they're not going to stop.

"We've appealed the case. We are trying to fight all we can to have these votes count. We would like to encourage all Northeast Arkansas residents to please go ahead and vote on Issue 7. If you are a supporter of this campaign, please go ahead and vote yes. Issue 7 was put on there by the hard work of a lot of Arkansas residents. "They've been cheated out of all of that by the Arkansas Supreme Court. And we're fixing to fight. We're fixing to have a big fight."

After the group protest outside the courthouse, they marched through downtown Jonesboro.

Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.

Region 8 News App - Install or update on your: iPhone | Android