Pubdate: Sun, 02 Sep 2012
Source: Texarkana Gazette (TX)
Copyright: 2012 The Associated Press
Author: Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press


LITTLE ROCK-A coalition seeking to have a medical marijuana proposal 
struck from Arkansas' November ballot told the state Supreme Court on 
Friday that backers didn't do enough to make sure voters know medical 
marijuana users could still face prosecution under federal law if the 
measure passes.

The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, which is made up of 
several conservative groups, asked justices to either remove the 
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."

The lawsuit also claims that the ballot measure fails to inform 
voters of several other consequences of the initiated act, including 
a provision that would allow minors to use medical marijuana with 
parental consent.

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.

Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee, said the 
coalition also planned to mobilize church groups and campaign against 
the proposal while fighting it in court.

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.
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