LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a proposed ballot measure Thursday that, if successful, would make the state the first in the southern U.S. to legalize medical marijuana.
Justices denied a petition to keep it off the ballot on whether to legalize medical marijuana in the Natural State.
The measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions, such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease, to buy marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation. A provision would allow minors to use it with parental consent.
Melissa Fults, with Arkansans for Compassionate Care, elated about the Court's decision Thursday.
"This is all about helping patients that need a medicine that can ease their pain," Fults said.
While Jerry Cox and Larry Page, with the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, expressed their concerns with the measure at the State Capitol Thursday.
"The fact that you might be able to mask pain with something, doesn't in itself make it medicine. If so, then we need to have medical methamphetamine, medical heroin, medical crack cocaine. We need to be smart about this and use good science," Page said.
"The court did not rule on the constitutionality of the measure, they did not rule on whether it's good law or bad law. They did not rule on whether or not people ought to vote for this. They simply said, in their opinion, they believe that the information the voter will be presented with is enough for the voter to be adequately informed about the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act," Cox said.
"My father, when he passed away, had early Alzheimer's, and the agitation that they get from this, marijuana has proven to calm them down, calm their agitation and sometimes help their memory," Fults added.
Arkansans will have the final word in November.
The proposal acknowledges that marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but opponents argue that it doesn't adequately explain that users could face federal prosecution.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some fashion. Massachusetts voters are also expected to vote on the issue this fall, while the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that a medical marijuana initiative cannot appear on that state's ballot.
Governor Mike Beebe, who is opposed to the proposal, told reporters on Thursday he will not vote for the measure, but will not campaign against it.
The Governor is concerned over the financial impact the Act could have on Arkansas, specifically a new regulatory structure.