Court Rejects Casinos And Damage Caps, Affirms Medical Marijuana Proposal

Oct 13, 2016

The Arkansas Supreme Court

The Arkansas Supreme Court issued decisions Thursday impacting three items that voters were to consider in next month's general election. Justices disqualified proposals to legalize three casinos and place limits on medical liability cases, while saying a medical marijuana proposal can be considered.

The state's high court sided with opponents of a proposed constitutional amendment that would give three private companies rights to run casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties.

The court ordered election officials to not count any votes for the measure in the Nov. 8 election. The court ruled that the ballot title "does not honestly and accurately reflect what is contained in the proposed amendment."

The lawsuit was filed a group funded by dog and horse tracks in the state that currently offer video poker and other forms of electronic gambling. The lawsuit claimed the proposal was misleading to voters and that supporters didn't follow state law for reporting and registering paid canvassers.

The Arkansas Supreme Court also ruled voters cannot consider whether to impose award limits in medical liability cases because the language to be placed on the ballot doesn't fully describe what the proposal would do.

A unanimous court Thursday directed that no votes be counted on the proposal, which would have allowed legislators to cap non-economic damages against health care providers for medical injuries at a minimum of $250,000.

Two lawsuits were filed against the proposal. Justices ruled in both of them Thursday. Supporters of the proposal had argued that the limits were needed to control health care costs. The measure had been placed on the ballot by petition. A special master appointed by the court raised questions about the signature-gathering process, but justices said the term "non-economic damages" was not clear.

Meanwhile justices sided with supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for patients with certain medical conditions. The court rejected a lawsuit by opponents of the measure that sought to disqualify it from being considered in the Nov. 8 election.

Justices said language to be presented to voters clearly states what the proposal would do. The proposal is one of two medical marijuana proposals on the ballot.

Justices are considering a separate challenge to a similar proposed initiated act. 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.