Arkansas court says voters can decide medical marijuana plan

Markets Associated Press

Voters will have their say on at least one medical marijuana proposals this November, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

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Justices sided with supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow patients with certain medical conditions to purchase marijuana from dispensaries. A coalition of groups, including the state Chamber of Commerce and the Arkansas Farm Bureau, had asked the court to prevent officials from counting any votes for the measure.

There are two such proposals on the Nov. 8 ballot. The one allowed to stand Thursday lets patients with certain conditions to buy the drug, but differs from the second proposal in their restrictions and regulations. For example, the competing proposal allows patients to grow their own marijuana if they don't live near a dispensary.

There still was a pending challenge to the second competing proposal as of Thursday.

The court said in its opinion that the challenge largely asked the justices to interpret the content of the amendment, which is not within its purview. Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote that the language of the measure does not have to cover every detail of the amendment.

"We conclude that while inside the voting booth, the voters will be able to reach an intelligent and informed decision for or against The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016," she wrote.

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Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a medical marijuana proposal four years ago, despite big spending from pro-legalization national groups.

Meanwhile, national support for medical marijuana has grown, and half of the states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug in some fashion. Arkansas is one of four states with medical marijuana proposals on this year's ballot.

But the push faces more obstacles this year. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who headed the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, has spoken out against the measures. The state Democratic Party's platform includes general support for legalizing medical marijuana, but the platform is silent on the two ballot measures.