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September 27, 2012

Arkansas Supreme Court rejects challenge to state medicial marijuana ballot initiative

Thanks to How Appealing, I see via this AP article that the "Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a proposed ballot measure that, if successful, would make the state the first in the South to legalize medical marijuana." Specifically, that court "rejected a challenge by a coalition of conservative groups who had asked the court to block the proposed initiated act from the November ballot or order the state to not count any votes cast on the issue." Here is more about the ruling and its import:

Arkansas will be the first Southern state to put the medical marijuana question to voters. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized it in some fashion. Massachusetts voters are also expected to vote on the issue this fall, while the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled a medical marijuana initiative can't appear on that state's ballot.

The conservative coalition argued that Arkansas' 384-word ballot question doesn't accurately describe other consequences of passing the 8,700-word law, including a provision that would allow minors to use medical marijuana with parental consent.

Justices disagreed and said the proposed law is fairly summarized in the question that will appear on the ballot. "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 ruling said....

Medical marijuana has never come before voters in the South partly because of the difficulty of getting such initiatives on the ballot. And conservative legislators throughout the region have not backed the efforts. The Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project has provided most of the funding for the campaign in Arkansas, contributing $251,000 to the effort.

Officials with the group said they stepped in after polling showed strong support for the measure in Arkansas. Group leaders also cite a "symbolic" value in passing a medical marijuana law in the South. "I think it's a sign that marijuana policy reform is an idea that is coming of age now across the nation, rather than just in the states where we've seen it so far," said Morgan Fox, the group's communications director. "It's really an important moment."

Gov. Mike Beebe, who is opposed to the proposal, told reporters on Thursday he doesn't believe the state's voters would legalize medical marijuana. Beebe said he's asked for an estimate of how much it will cost the state to regulate the dispensaries if the measure passes. "If I understand what I think I understand about it, if it passes, it's going to require a whole of administration from the health department," Beebe said. "I don't know where we're going to get it from."

The full unanimous ruling from the Supreme Court of Arkansas is available at this link.

September 27, 2012 at 03:43 PM | Permalink

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