The Arkansas Supreme Court rejected a bid on Thursday to keep the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act off the November ballot. That means voters there will have the chance to make it the first state in the South to embrace medical marijuana.
Although the act, to be known as Issue 5 on the ballot, was qualified for the ballot after Arkansans for Compassionate Care met all state requirements, the conservative Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values had sought to block it on the grounds that its ballot statement does not adequately explain that patients could still face federal prosecution.
But the state high court wasn’t buying.
“We hold that it is an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring,” the court wrote in its opinion. “Therefore, the act is proper for inclusion on the ballot at the general election on November 6, 2012, and the petition is therefore denied.”
The coalition also argued that the ballot question doesn’t adequately describe other aspects of the proposed law, including a provision allowing minors to use medical marijuana without seeking parental consent, but the high court wasn’t buying that, either.
“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 court said.
The court decision was met with relief and elation by Arkansans for Compassionate Care and the Marijuana Policy Project, which had funded the effort to the tune of $251,000.
“We at the Marijuana Policy Project are very proud to support Issue 5 and Arkansans for Compassionate Care and are glad that the state Supreme Court saw fit to dismiss this baseless challenge,” said MPP communications director Morgan Fox. “The people of Arkansas deserve a chance to have their voices heard, just as seriously ill Arkansans deserve a chance to live normal lives without being treated like criminals.
“The tightly regulated system that would be implemented by the passage of this initiative would provide relief to numerous patients suffering from severely debilitating conditions, while taking resources out of the hands of criminals and increasing public safety. This is not a partisan issue,” continued Fox. “It is a matter of compassion. Hopefully other states in the region will take their cue from Arkansas and begin to explore similar policy alternatives to putting sick people in jail.”
Under the proposal, qualifying health conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease. The proposal also would allow qualifying patients or a designated caregiver to grow marijuana if the patient lives more than 5 miles from a dispensary.
Medical marijuana is also on the ballot this year in Massachusetts, while in Montana, an initiative that would undo the gutting of that state’s program by the legislature is also on the ballot.