Medical marijuana legalization underway in Arkansas

Monday, May 23, 2011 by: Brigid Shaw
Tags: medical marijuana, Arkansas, health news

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(NaturalNews) Arkansas residents may see an initiative to legalize medical marijuana on the November 2012 ballot. The proposed law's sponsor, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, achieved its first victory when the Arkansas attorney general certified the proposal's ballot language. The group must collect 62,507 voter signatures by July 2012 for the issue to appear on the general election ballot next year, according to a Reuters report.

"We want to ensure that sick and dying patients in Arkansas have the ability to get the medicine they need and that is sometimes medical marijuana," Ryan Denham, campaign director, told reporters.

A similar effort to get the issue on the ballot in 2004 failed due to a lack of petition signatures. But Denham is confident that his Fayetteville-based group will recruit more support this time. Reuters reports that Denham has enlisted over 300 volunteers to obtain signatures.

The law would allow use of marijuana only to treat certain conditions, including AIDS, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, fibromyalgia, and glaucoma. Qualifying patients would be allowed to grow up to six plants at a time. (

Following the lead of legislation passed in Maine and Arizona, the number of licensed marijuana dispensaries in Arkansas would be tightly controlled. Furthermore, individual cities and counties would have the option of banning dispensaries. Denham said the proposal aims to avoid the problems facing states such as California, where the number of dispensaries is less regulated.

Nationwide, there is growing momentum to legalize marijuana for therapeutic use. Delaware became the 16th state to allow the medicinal use of cannabis when Governor Jack Marnell signed SB 17 into law on May 13. Arizona, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia passed similar initiatives in 2010.

There are currently 10 states with legislation pending to legalize medical marijuana, including New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. (

Research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis has shown that active compounds of the plant have positive effects in patients afflicted with certain diseases ranging from breast cancer to HIV/AIDS. The research is more conflicting, however, on studies of those suffering from mental disorders, among other conditions. (

Another Arkansas group is seeking approval from the Attorney General to conduct a cannabis and hemp study. (

Evidence for the use of cannabis dates back to 2,737 BCE.

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