LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — 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.
Justices 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.
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 the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values argued that it doesn’t adequately explain that approved users could still face federal prosecution.
“We hold that it is an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring,” the court wrote. “Therefore, the act is proper for inclusion on the ballot at the general election on Nov. 6, 2012, and the petition is therefore denied.”
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 expected to vote on the issue this fall, and 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.