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Medical Marijuana Makes It Onto Arkansas Ballot

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (CN) — An initiative to allow marijuana use by those with "qualifying medical conditions" will appear on the November ballot in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

If approved by voters, The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment of 2016 will allow qualifying patients to purchase marijuana from a dispensary, and certify caregivers and physicians to dispense it.

Among those who will be eligible to use medical marijuana to manage their symptoms should the measure pass are patients with cancer, Glaucoma, Tourette's Disease, PTSD, Fibromyalgia, HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis C, and a chronic or debilitating disease that causes severe nausea, seizures, or persistent muscle spasms.

The proposal lists 18 qualifying medical conditions, but gives the Arkansas Department of Health the authority to add to it.

Opponents of the amendment, including the group Arkansas Against Legalized Marijuana, said that the measure contains misleading statements and leaves out information essential for a fair understanding of the amendment. They asked the court to stop state officials from counting any ballots cast on the measure.

In Thursday's Supreme Court ruling, the justices held that the ballot title provided "a fair understanding of the issues presented and the scope and significance of the proposed changes in the law."

"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," Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote in the October 13 opinion.

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Little Rock-based Family Council Action Committee, said in a statement that the court "made a very poor decision."

"This proposal brings recreational marijuana to Arkansas. It is a flawed measure that hurts Arkansas," Cox said, adding that medical marijuana "is simply recreational marijuana by another name."

Four years ago, Arkansas voters narrowly rejected a similar medical marijuana proposal by less than three percentage points.

But a new poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans, 57 percent, now support legalizing marijuana use.

The poll comes as voters in three states — Arizona, California, and Maine — begin early voting on ballot measures to regulate and tax marijuana for adult use. Massachusetts and Nevada will begin voting on similar measures next week.

"There is more credible information out there than ever before," said Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. "As people learn that marijuana is not as dangerous as they were once led to believe, they tend to be supportive of taking a new approach."

Arkansas would join states like Arizona, Illinois and Pennsylvania as states that have legalized medical marijuana use in the last five years.

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