Arkansas court upholds medical marijuana proposal

Associated Press Modified: September 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm •  Published: September 27, 2012
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a proposed ballot measure that, if successful, would make the state the first in the South to legalize medical marijuana.

Justices rejected a challenge by a coalition of conservative groups who had asked the court to block the proposed initiated act from the November ballot or order the state to not count any votes cast on the issue.

The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation. The proposal acknowledges that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values argued that it doesn't adequately explain that approved users could still face federal prosecution.

"We hold that it is an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring," the court wrote. "Therefore, the act is proper for inclusion on the ballot at the general election on Nov. 6, 2012, and the petition is therefore denied."

Arkansas will be the first Southern state to put the medical marijuana question to voters. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized it in some fashion. Massachusetts voters are also expected to vote on the issue this fall, while the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled a medical marijuana initiative can't appear on that state's ballot.

The conservative coalition argued that Arkansas' 384-word ballot question doesn't accurately describe other consequences of passing the 8,700-word law, including a provision that would allow minors to use medical marijuana with parental consent.

Justices disagreed and said the proposed law is fairly summarized in the question that will appear on the ballot.

"Here, after reviewing the ballot title of 384 words, we conclude that the title informs the voters in an intelligible, honest and impartial manner of the substantive matter of the act," the ruling said.

The group behind the measure, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, told the court it believes the measure is sufficiently fair to go before voters. David Couch, an attorney for the group, said he was pleased with the ruling and said it allowed them to shift gears to building support for the measure's passage.

"Now that we've passed muster with the Supreme Court we'll begin our campaign to show the people of the state of Arkansas that this is truly a compassionate measure," Couch said.

The coalition also shifted into campaign mode, preparing to mobilize church leaders and other conservatives to oppose the measure.



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