AR: Medical Marijuana Madness Unfolds Tuesday

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The state Medical Marijuana Commission will reveal Tuesday its five picks among 95 applicants to grow marijuana for sale as medicine in Arkansas.

If chaos, conspiracy theories and legal confusion don’t immediately follow, count me surprised. The same for when the commission picks 32 applicants for dispensary licenses.

Chaos and conspiracy theories? Consider that a shadowy outside group has been working for weeks — at some great effort and, I’d guess, some expense — to compile a detailed analysis of all the interlocking relationships, political allies and big money that you can find throughout the applicants and regulatory process for the marijuana business in Arkansas.

That group has predicted winners of the cultivation lottery by emphasizing marquee names — two significant family fortunes, one former attorney general, one former state senator, one lawyer with ties to both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and former Gov. Mike Beebe.
The group won’t name what significant forces backs ITS research and prognostication.

But be assured, the race by losers to suggest undue influence will be immediate.

Then comes the crazier question, outlined in an article in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette by Hunter Field. Despite clear statutory authority to appeal commission decisions to circuit court, that avenue seems unavailable thanks to the so-far inscrutable decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court to outlaw lawsuits against the state except for illegal or unconstitutional actions.

Sovereign immunity means the state cannot be sued in its courts, period, the court seems to have ruled. Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce has already dismissed one medical marijuana lawsuit on that basis.

What WAS the Arkansas Supreme Court thinking when it voted 5-2 to upend precedent and say there’s no action of the state, legislative or executive, that can be challenged in court? They neutered themselves. We no longer have a three-legged stool of government in Arkansas.

One wonders, only half-jokingly, how criminal defendants can sue the state on appeal except on constitutional issues.

Crazy as it seems, I think lower court judges have no choice for the time being but to assume the full breadth of the decision.

This problem is exactly what Justices Karen Baker and Jo Hart wrote would ensue in their dissent to the majority finding on sovereign immunity.

The business of dispensing a product that the federal government views as illegal already was fraught with difficult legal issues. Is it really the case that we now can’t look to the courts to settle them?

How about duels?