CONWAY -- A Van Buren County man isn't giving up on his cause, even though the attorney general's office has rejected five proposed ballot titles that would have asked voters to legalize marijuana for various purposes.
Four of Robert Reed's proposals would have provided for voters to decide whether to approve a constitutional amendment allowing for either industrial or agricultural uses and medical uses of marijuana. The other proposal would have let voters decide whether to pass an amendment legalizing all uses of marijuana, including recreational.
Reed -- who lives in Dennard, a small community between Clinton and Marshall -- said he suffers from an "extremely painful" bone disease and fears the potential side effects of painkillers now available to him.
During a recent visit to Conway, the 61-year-old Vietnam veteran was using a cane.
He said he plans to appeal the most recent denials, on July 20, by Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who cited "ambiguities" in two proposals he submitted. Such an appeal, he said, would go to the Arkansas Supreme Court.
Among other things, Rutledge wrote in a July 20 letter to Reed that his agricultural and medical title was "misleading in that it could cause voters to erroneously conclude that the amendment pertains only to 'agricultural' hemp and medical marijuana when, in fact, the proposal makes lawful the selling, etc., of all cannabis for all uses."
Of his more wide-ranging proposal, titled End Cannabis Prohibition for short, Rutledge also cited several problems.
"It may be that the world 'prohibition' carries negative overtones that would prompt voters to vote for the proposal solely on the basis of the popular name," the Republican wrote.
Other problems she cited included what she described as a "number of errors of syntax and typing that do not evidence the care that should be taken in an attempt to amend the Constitution."
Reed -- who described himself as a "registered cannabis lobbyist" in Arkansas -- said he's been trying to get a marijuana issue on the ballot since 2012, when Dustin McDaniel, a Democrat, was attorney general.
"I've probably been at it longer than anyone" else in the state, he said.
His wife, Theresa, is a cancer survivor and would have benefited from medical marijuana when she was sick, he said.
As for whether marijuana would help his pain, Reed said he doesn't know. He can't try it to find out, he said, because it's not legal in Arkansas.
But Reed said he stands to benefit from marijuana legalization because he could feed hemp seed to his livestock.
Reed said he also believes Arkansas would benefit economically from the legalization of industrial and agricultural marijuana.
Many products that Arkansans now buy in stores contain hemp, he said. "It comes out of Canada."
When asked about Rutledge's views on the legalization of marijuana, spokesman Judd Deere said in an email: "Based on her experience as a prosecutor and as the chief law enforcement officer of the State, Attorney General Rutledge does not support the legalization of marijuana in Arkansas."
But Deere said the attorney general's office "has been given no authority to consider the merits of any measure when considering the sufficiency of a proposed ballot title."
Rather, he wrote, "The Attorney General is charged with this responsibility under [Arkansas Annotated Code 7-9-107], which requires the Attorney General to determine whether the popular names and ballot titles of certain ballot measures meet legal requirements before an entity may begin soliciting signatures for an initiative to be placed on the ballot."
In an email last week, J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said, "Until the medical community has a consensus in favor of medical marijuana, the Governor does not support efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use without a prescription."
State Desk on 07/27/2015