LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas voters will get to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for medical use in the state.
Secretary of State Mark Martin announced Wednesday that supporters of the proposed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act had submitted the required 62,507 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify the measure for the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
Martin’s office said it stopped counting after certifyng more than 69,000 signatures.
Members of Arkansans for Compassionate Care fell just over 26,000 signatures short of the certification threshold in its first submission to the secretary of state July 6. The group submitted more than 74,000 additional signatures on Aug. 13.
"This is the most wonderful news I’ve had in a long time," said Melissa Fults, a spokeswoman for the group. "It’s been a long time coming. This is the beginning of our independence. There are a lot of patients that have to choose between suffering and breaking the law. This makes it one step closer to (a time) we don’t have to make that choice anymore."
The proposed initiated act would allow up to 30 medical marijuana dispensaries in the state but would give cities and counties the option of banning them. The marijuana would only be available to people with prescriptions for certain health conditions, including chronic pain, glaucoma, Hepatitis C and those who are terminally ill.
The proposal would allow limited cultivation of marijuana by a qualifying patient, or the patient’s designated caregiver, if the patient lives more than five miles from a dispensary.
Fults said the campaign to win voter approval of the measure would continue to be a grassroots effort.
"From this point, it’ll be educating people about the benefits," she said.
The Christian conservative Family Council opposes the ballot initiative, calling the provision to allow certain people to grow their own marijuana a back-door means of legalizing the drug, which the group also notes is still illegal under federal law.
Jerry Cox, Family Council executive director, said the group’s political arm, the Family Council Action Committee, is reviewing all of its options for fighting the proposal, including a possible legal challenge.