Medical marijuana backers seek inroads in South

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Kathy Reynolds said she used marijuana in 1992 to help her eat after undergoing breast cancer treatment and bone marrow transplants. Now 57, she says she would like to use it again to dull the pain from a degenerative bone disease. But she’s worried about being arrested.

“I’m afraid to,” Reynolds said. “The risk it would be to use it at this point outweighs the benefit.”

If approved, the Arkansas proposal would allow patients with certain qualifying conditions to use marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. Qualifying conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease.

Nonprofit dispensaries would be allowed to sell pot. But if patients live more than five miles from a dispensary, they or their caregivers could also grow marijuana.

The ballot measure’s future isn’t guaranteed, however. A coalition of conservative groups has asked the state Supreme Court to strike it from the ballot, claiming it misleads voters.

Even if it’s approved, federal prosecutors could shut down any dispensaries, as they have in other states. Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said the conflict with federal law is one of the reasons he opposes the measure.

Gov. Mike Beebe, another opponent, said aside from the federal legal questions, there are also worries about how much it will cost the state to regulate dispensaries.

“Those are serious questions, and a lot of that is unanswerable because you don’t know how many dispensing places are going to apply or going to be granted,” Beebe said.

Even some of the state’s medical marijuana supporters are somewhat wary of the proposal.

State Sen. Randy Laverty, who said he generally supports medical marijuana, said he’s undecided and wants to review the proposal to make sure any dispensary system is tightly controlled.

“I don’t know if Arkansas is ready for medicinal marijuana or not,” Laverty said. “But if they are, I doubt they would want open dispensaries on the corners in various towns.”

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Andrew DeMillo can be reached at www.twitter.com/ademillo

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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