- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the wording of a proposal to legalize medical marijuana on Wednesday, clearing the way for supporters to try and put the measure on the November ballot.

Rutledge certified the proposed constitutional amendment submitted by Little Rock attorney David Couch. Her certification was needed before Couch can begin gathering the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters needed to put the proposal before voters this fall.

Couch said he was pleased with Rutledge approving the measure and hoped to begin circulating petitions by the March 1 primary.

“We have sufficient funding and a contract in place to bring in paid canvassers and we’ll start circulating as soon as we get the petition approved by the secretary of state’s office,” Couch said.

Couch’s proposal would set up a five-member commission, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, to regulate and license dispensaries and cultivation facilities. It would require the state to license between 20 and 40 dispensaries and between four and eight cultivation facilities.

This is the second medical marijuana proposal that supporters are trying to get on the ballot this year. Former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in late 2014 approved a proposed initiated act by Arkansans for Compassionate Care. The group must gather nearly 68,000 signatures to put that measure before voters.

Arkansas voters narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana in 2012. A conservative group that campaigned against the measure then said it’ll fight any moves to legalize medical marijuana.

“We are very much against any effort to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas. So-called medical marijuana is not medicine,” said Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council Action Committee.

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