Medical Marijuana Fight Blazes in Arkansas

     LITTLE ROCK (CN) – In a legal fight spurred by today’s vote on an Arkansas medical marijuana initiative, vending machine distributors claim that a Christian group defamed them by falsely claiming their machines “sell marijuana without any prescription to the general public.”
     Prescription Vending Machines dba Medicine Dispensing Systems sued the Family Council Action Committee and its director Jerry Cox, in Federal Court.
     The same defendants were sued in a virtually identical federal complaint filed by Medicine Dispensing Systems (MDS) and Kind Clinics.
     The Family Council Action Committee is a conservative nonprofit fighting Arkansas’ proposed Medical Marijuana Act, which is Issue 5 on today’s ballot.
     The vendors claim Cox’s group defamed them on the Internet and at a news conference broadcast on local TV, with “falsely derogatory” comments.
     “During and after the conference, Mr. Cox described the MDS as ‘vending machines’ that sell marijuana like vending machines sell potato chips. Mr. Cox also stated that plaintiffs’ machines run 24/7 to put marijuana in the hands of the public. On October 31, 2012, Mr. Cox published an article on Family Council’s website, referring to plaintiffs’ machines as ‘high-tech snack machines that sell marijuana and marijuana-infused food instead of potato chips.’ The article implies that such dispensary machines can be put at a convenience store across town,” the complaint states.
     “Mr. Cox also gave an interview to KARK 4 news stating that marijuana vending machines are coming to Arkansas, and described the MDS as machines distributing marijuana without any prescription to a general public.”
     The plaintiffs also object that Cox and his group used their “distinctive and famous” Medbox trademark during a news conference on the steps of the state Capitol, where Cox appeared next to “an exact cardboard replica” of the medicine dispensing system with the words “Medbox” printed on it.
     “The defendants altered the MDS by pasting a large marijuana leaf to the MDS,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs say Cox’s “use of the Medbox trademark harmed and continues to harm the good reputation of the Medbox trademark by creating an association between drug dealers distributing marijuana without prescription and the plaintiffs.”
     The plaintiffs describe themselves as “a distributor of state-of-the-art, highly controlled drug dispensing systems. The machines are used in hospitals, pharmacies, urgent care centers, and doctor’s offices to maintain inventory control and accountability for employees dispensing medicine to consumers. The MDS uses pre-registered biometric scans and key cards to identify authorized users. After obtaining a prescription from a doctor, the patient must then be registered with the medical clinic. The patient is issued an additional card, similar to a debit card, that is used only on the MDS and in a medical clinic. When a patient purchases medical marijuana in a clinic from the MDS, she/he must first swipe her/his card and enter her/his personal PIN number. Then, the machine scans and verifies the patient’s thumbprint to continue with the purchase. The entire transaction is recorded on camera.”
     The plaintiffs say Cox’s statements damaged their reputation and “prevent others from dealing with plaintiffs, and interfere with plaintiffs’ business relationships.”
     “Strict security of plaintiffs’ product and control over access to medications are key features of the MDS. Defendants’ false statements, altering the appearance of plaintiffs’ product, and displaying it at the news conference at the Arkansas State Capitol irreparably harmed plaintiff and will continue to harm plaintiffs unless enjoined by the court,” the complaint states.
     The plaintiffs seek punitive damages for defamation, negligence and trademark dilution.
     They are represented by John T. Holleman, of Little Rock.

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