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Voters reject medical marijuana proposal

By Staff and wire report

This article was originally published November 6, 2012 at 9:14 a.m. Updated November 6, 2012 at 1:38 a.m.

— Voters have rejected a proposal to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas.

The proposal's backers wanted Arkansas to become the first Southern state to legalize such sales. But conservative groups challenged the measure, saying the proposal didn't clearly state that medical marijuana users could face the risk of prosecution because the drug is illegal.

With 91 percent of precincts reporting at 1:30 a.m., 52 percent of voters cast ballots against the measure.

The measure would have allowed patients with qualifying conditions — including cancer, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease — to buy marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation. It also would have allowed qualifying patients or a designated caregiver to grow marijuana if the patient lives more than five miles from a dispensary.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care gathered more than 62,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot and successfully defended the proposal in court.

Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council, which opposed the measure, watched results come in at the Embassy Suites in west Little Rock. He said throughout the night that he was "cautiously optimistic" the measure would be defeated, though the race remained close into early Wednesday.

"That gap has been widening slightly as the evening has gone on," Cox said earlier Tuesday night. "Not to call it a trend, but it does bode well for the defeat of this measure."

Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group that pushed to get the measure on the ballot, contended the drug could help alleviate pain for patients with certain conditions and diseases including cancer, glaucoma and HIV.

The group said dozens of doctors around the state supported its efforts to allow.

Cox's Family Council - which ran a campaign asserting passage would lead to abuse - noted a number of physicians opposed it, including the Arkansas Medical Society. That group represents more than 4,300 doctors and medical students across the state.

Earlier in the day, voters expressed divided opinion on the matter.

Mark Mariner, a 50-year-old operator technician with a utility company, said he voted against the medical marijuana proposal because there are plenty of prescription pain medicines and marijuana is "just another illegal drug they're trying to make legal."

He said it would almost certainly lead to abuse if passed.

"I know it would," he said with a chuckle shortly after casting his ballot at Henderson United Methodist Church. "Look at alcohol. They made it legal, and look at how much trouble we have with alcohol."

April Moore, a 37-year-old program administrator, said she believes marijuana should be legal beyond just medicinal use. But, she said, passing the medical provision wouldn't lead to that.

"Having it regulated and taxed would actually deter a lot of that," she said.


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jackrabbits1 says... November 6, 2012 at 10:23 a.m.

How is it that a ballot is cast at a "CHURCH". Doesn't anyone get it? SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE.

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drs01 says... November 6, 2012 at 10:43 a.m.

Polling places have always been hard to secure. The charity of God loving people has been a bright spot on election days. What this shows it that churches are doing all they can to make democracy work for all of us. Thanks.

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Jfish says... November 6, 2012 at 10:57 a.m.

jack, the ballots were cast at a a building where a church meets. A church is actually made up of people, there is nothing spiritual or sacred about a building. If the church members were running or interfering with the process, that would be a different story.

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theriously says... November 6, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.

Seriously, voting location has nothing to do with church and state.

The arguments from the "against" voters in this article are frustrating. Saying that current pain medications are plentiful and in the next breath worrying it will lead to abuse baffles me. What are the most addictive substances? Let's see, opiates and nicotine. But oh the evil marijuana. You stoners need to watch reefer madness again so you can be reminded of the dangers of the marijuana. And c'mon, it's always been known as a "drug substance" (what does that even mean?). Tha's a valid argument for sure.

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Drumroll says... November 6, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.

I voted yes on 5. Should be legal and handled like alcohol. Prohibition only makes the criminals rich. You think we would have learned something from the alcohol prohibition days.

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Libertarian says... November 6, 2012 at 12:32 p.m.

Unfortunately, even if passed, the expected new Republican majority would probably make reversing the law their first order of business when the legislature next meets. My wife would benefit from this herb for her cronic pain.

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Libertarian says... November 6, 2012 at 12:35 p.m.

I say a script should authorize you to grow up to 3 plants. Let the drug companies eat cake.

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ELKHUNTER says... November 6, 2012 at 1:24 p.m.

Unfortunately this will not pass. Those thousands whose careers have been funded by the failed war will see to that. Those that have invested billions to build 'for profit prisons' will see to that. Those 'families' making billions of dollars a year in Mexico will see to that. Even local drug dealers are voting against the measure that would destroy their livelihood. Nice try Arkansas but there is just too much money at stake to allow medical marijuana.

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SPA says... November 6, 2012 at 8:45 p.m.

I celebrate that it even got on the ballot. That in and of itself was a huge surprise for such a backward state. If it does not pass this election year, perhaps it will in the next.

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2531USMC says... November 6, 2012 at 9:11 p.m.

This issue is symbolic, even if were to pass it would still be illegal under federal law. But it is an important first step in putting an end to second biggest folly of morality control, the first being prohibition which failed miserably. We can thank the rise of organized crime to laws such as these.

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