How Medicinal Marijuana is expected to work in Arkansas

(KATV) The war over medicinal marijuana is heatingup, just three weeks before voters have their say on whether it should be legalin Arkansas. It is arguably one of the most controversial items on the ballotthis November.

Just last year, a federalreport was released, showing there are no medical benefits to marijuana and itshould remain classified as a dangerous drug. But advocates are convincedotherwise.

Organizers with Arkansans for CompassionateCare say a TV commercial running in the state with images of gun wielding, zombie like smokers and marijuana retailstores are completely distorted.

David Couch is the attorney for theorganizations. He says, "You're not going to see walk in pharmacies like yousee in California."

According to the measure, the statecan legally have 30 dispensaries in the 15 most populous counties. Like a wet ordry county, communities can vote to keep the green out. If you live more than a5 mile radius from a dispensary, you can apply to grow. That means you can have6 plants and no more than 2.5 ounces of dry bud. "Because the way this act is set up it really doesn't legalize marijuana. What it does is it says if you qualify for a medicinal marijuana card. It's an affirmative defense to the crime of possession of marijuana," Couch says.

He continues, "You have to grow it indoors inan enclosed locked, secure facility that only you have access to."

Opponents argue there are other,safer, legal ways to treat chronic illnesses than to give people access tomarijuana, no matter how strict you try and make it.

Unlike many states that have passedthe law, Arkansas would be nonprofit, any extra money would go to charity toprovide marijuana for people who have been approved but can't afford it. "Adispensary is going to be nothing more than a pharmacy," Couch explains.

The Arkansas Department of Health will regulate theentire medicinal marijuana program from the issued card to licensing; they'lloversee the dispensaries and inspections.

A recent Hendrix College poll of 868 Arkansansshows 54% of those voters are opposed, 38% are in support of the measure and 8%are undecided.

Couch concludes, "I'm sure that if youcall 800 people today, depending on which 800 you get, you'll get a differentswing in the poll."

If passed, Arkansas would be the firstsouthern state to legalize medicinal use of the drug.

It is still a federal offense but theDepartment of Justice has taken the position basically to stand down if peopleare in clear compliance with the state law.

The Arkansas Sheriff's Association, Anti-drugagencies, Arkansas Pharmacist Association and Arkansas Association of Chiefs ofPolice are against the measure.

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