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VOL. 127 | NO. 172 | Monday, September 03, 2012

Groups Ask Arkansas Court to Strike Marijuana Measure

ANDREW DeMILLO | Associated Press

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A coalition of conservative groups asked the Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday to strike a medical marijuana proposal from the November ballot, accusing the measure's backers of not informing voters that if approved, medical marijuana users could still face prosecution under federal law.

The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values asked justices to either remove the proposed measure from the ballot or order the state to not count any votes cast for it. Election officials last week approved the ballot proposal after verifying that supporters had turned in enough signatures from registered voters.

The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation. The proposal acknowledges that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but opponents contend in the lawsuit that it's not clear enough to voters that they could be prosecuted.

"Given the severity of prosecution under state and federal drug laws a more specific and affirmative statement should be at the beginning of the act. The sponsor is misleading the voter," the lawsuit said. "It is not made clear to the voter that a qualifying person under the act may still be prosecuted under federal law."

David Couch, an attorney for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the measure, said he believes the measure is clear on the federal law issue and that it would be upheld by the court.

"It was submitted to the (attorney general) three times and approved and we believe the ballot title accurately reflects the important provisions of the initiative and we hope the Supreme Court allows the citizens of this state to vote for it," Couch said. "We're confident that if a vote is allowed it will pass."

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 five miles from a dispensary.

Arkansas is the first southern state to ask its voters to approve legalizing medical marijuana. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana in some fashion.

The coalition's members include leaders of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, the Family Council Action Committee and the Families First Foundation.

The lawsuit is the third pending before the court over proposed ballot measures. Justices are also considering whether to allow two competing casino legalization proposals on the November ballot.

Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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