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Medical marijuana isn't legal in Arkansas, but that could change

Let's be very clear. Marijuana is illegal in Arkansas. Possessing it; possessing it to sell or distribute; growing it; even carrying marijuana use paraphernalia can result in criminal charges. Conviction can have serious repercussions not only in terms of any sentences handed down, but also in terms of one's future.

Still, it's the state's obligation to present evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If it doesn't exist, the defendant's right to a presumption of innocence is supposed to hold. With all that could be at stake, mounting a strong defense with the experienced legal counsel makes sense.

As you are reading this, the legal landscape regarding marijuana is changing. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have created systems through which medical marijuana can be prescribed and used. And if medical marijuana supporters are successful in their efforts, Arkansas will join those ranks.

Two initiatives make this possible. One is an initiated act being pushed by Arkansas for Compassionate Care that will be on the ballot when voters go to the polls in November. The second effort centers on amending the constitution to allow medical marijuana use. Signatures on petitions for the change are now being counted.

Not surprisingly, opposition to these efforts is taking shape. A group called the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities is mounting a campaign to defeat the legalization efforts. A major concern of this group is that by opening the door to medical marijuana, recreational use will soon follow. Indeed the coalition leaders say the current initiatives are part of a larger national effort - a claim the medical marijuana supporters deny. Proponents say they just want to make it possible for patients to have access to possible therapies under doctor-controlled conditions.

It's clear that this issue is going to create more ripples in the political fabric of the state in the coming months. In the midst of it all, authorities will continue to enforce the laws, as they understand them, and defendants should be prepared to defend their rights and their futures.

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