Lawsuit stalls medical marijuana ballot issue, for now

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

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

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

This conservative coalition argues that the proposedArkansas Medical Marijuana Act violates federal law, which the ACCacknowledges.

The measure would allow patients with certain conditions tobuy marijuana from a nonprofit dispensary with a doctor's recommendation. Theproposal clearly states that the drug is still illegal under federal law, thoughconservatives say that the measure fails to explain enough that voters couldface prosecution.

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

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

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

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

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

Kathy Michaud supports the effort to legalize marijuana formedical 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. Shehas gone through three serious rounds of treatment to battle the disease. Sheand her husband, Laughingbear, admit to buying marijuana off the streets tohelp 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 andkeep my wife alive. I love her that much."

The Michauds have actively volunteered with the ACC, helpingthe organization surpass the number of signatures needed to validate the ballotmeasure.

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

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

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

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

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