Lawsuit stalls medical marijuana ballot issue, for now - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Lawsuit stalls medical marijuana ballot issue, for now

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Arkansas could become the first Southern state to consider legalizing medical marijuana if a proposal can clear one last legal hurdle.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) collected enough signatures to put the medical marijuana question on the November ballot, but several conservative groups filed a lawsuit stalling the measure, for now.

ACC challenged the lawsuit in Arkansas Supreme Court this week brought by the Coalition to Protect Arkansas Values.

This conservative coalition argues that the proposed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act violates federal law, which the ACC acknowledges.

The measure would allow patients with certain conditions to buy marijuana from a nonprofit dispensary with a doctor's recommendation. The proposal clearly states that the drug is still illegal under federal law, though conservatives say that the measure fails to explain enough that voters could face prosecution.

The coalition says it has also identified other vague language, including a provision that would allow minors to use medical marijuana with a parent and doctor's consent.

Chris Kell, an ACC spokesman, says these tactics may scare voters, but the measure is legally sound.

"We've met the legal requirements for the Attorney General's Office and have been certified through the secretary of state," Kell said over the phone Friday.

"The Supreme Court did decline the Family Council's request for oral argument," he added, "and should be noted also they declined our request for a reply and brief."

Kell says it's unclear when the Supreme Court justices will hand down a decision but hopes it comes soon. He, however, insists that the ACC will continue mobilizing mobilize its volunteers, like the Michaud family, to keep up the campaign.

Kathy Michaud supports the effort to legalize marijuana for medical use because she has seen its benefits firsthand.

"The marijuana is the only thing I could get to help me eat," she said.

Michaud was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, 25 years ago. She has gone through three serious rounds of treatment to battle the disease. She and her husband, Laughingbear, admit to buying marijuana off the streets to help her symptoms subside.

"If I had to go through it again, I would do it," Laughingbear said. "I would buy marijuana off the street until it's legal and keep my wife alive. I love her that much."

The Michauds have actively volunteered with the ACC, helping the organization surpass the number of signatures needed to validate the ballot measure.

"My main goal is to make sure this gets on the ballot," Laughingbear said. "There are thousands of people across this nation suffering daily."

One person who will not be joining them on the campaign trail is Fran Flener, the Arkansas drug director.

She told Region 8 News Friday that she cannot endorse the proposal, as she fears that aspects of the law will lead to abuse. She echoed some of the conservative coalition's concerns, saying she worries the law could make potent drugs more accessible to young people.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and provide any updates, as they become available.

Copyright 2012 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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