Arkansas court upholds medical marijuana proposal

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT/AP) - Arkansas residents will get the opportunity to vote on the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act in November.

The Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a recent challenge by a coalition of conservative organizations that asked the court to keep the proposed measure off the November ballot.


Arkansas is the first Southern state to consider legalizing medical marijuana.


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 its opponents argued that it does not adequately explain that users could face federal prosecution.


"I think it's probably going to be legalized," said Jonesboro resident Loren Long. "I think that if the state's going to give it a chance to be legalized as a medical marijuana, I think it's going to help a lot for people that are in pain."


Regardless of how Arkansans choose to vote on the matter, the fact that they are voting about it at all is a surprise to many people.


Attorney Anthony Bartels is one of those who is surprised the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the measure, but he does not believe voters will approve it. "It won't be a close one. It'll be a bad defeat for the drug," he said. "I don't think we should have marijuana for anything, period. I've seen too many people's lives and marriages and family lives destroyed."


The Act protects "qualifying patients", such as those who have cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, Tourettes Syndrome, PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis, and several other conditions.


It also provides discrimination protection to patients, designated caregivers and physicians.


According to the act, schools, landlords and employers cannot refuse enrollment, lease options or hired positions solely based on a person's status as a patient or designated caregiver.


In addition, physicians cannot be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty for certifying a person to receive medical marijuana.


Arkansas State University Political Science Professor Dr. Richard Wang said Arkansans can count on the rest of country to pay close attention to the vote in November.


"There's a lot of national attention to it and that national attention will increase as the election appears six weeks out," he said.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.