Arkansas could become the first state in the South to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes in November, after the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a ballot measure advanced by activists.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act was challenged by state conservative groups that argued the ballot measure’s summary was misleading and incomplete, for example, by not specifying which illnesses a person would need to have to legally obtain the drug. The groups asked the court to remove the measure from the ballot.
Arkansas Supreme Court justices rejected the argument, concluding in their opinion that the summary “informs the voters in an intelligible, honest and impartial manner” about what the measure would do.
If passed, the measure would enable people in Arkansas who have certain illnesses, such as cancer and glaucoma, to legally acquire marijuana to help ease their symptoms. Eligible people would get a certificate to buy marijuana at dispensaries that would be set up for the first time in the state.
California in 1996 became the first state to approve the use of medical marijuana. Since then, 16 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted similar laws. Most of them are in the East Coast or in the West.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the Arkansas initiative, said its proposed law includes limits on the number of dispensaries selling the drug, as well as strict controls over who is eligible to use the marijuana.
The group gathered 120,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot, almost double the number that state law requires, members said. It received financial assistance from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates the decriminalization of marijuana.
“We hope that this will be a model for other states to go with in the future,” said Christopher Kell, campaign strategist for the Arkansas group.
But members of the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, which filed the court challenge, said the proposed controls aren’t enough to keep marijuana out of the hands of those would use it for purposes other than to relieve symptoms of a medical condition.
“Medical marijuana is not about providing health care to people,” said Larry Page, executive director of Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, a group that is part of the opposition coalition. “What’s driving this is the effort to legalize marijuana for recreational use.”
Mr. Page said his group will now focus on educating the public about the consequences of passing the initiative, which he said aren’t spelled out in the proposal that voters will review at the polling places.
via : Wall Street Journal
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