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Arkansas OKs medical marijuana; rollout plan still to come

If you ever doubted that the question of whether to allow medical marijuana in Arkansas is a delicate one, all you had to do was look at the way ArkansasOnline.com reported on the passage of Issue 6.

At 11:35 p.m. on election night, the lead of one story read, "The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment passed." At 5:45 a.m. the next morning, the same online outlet's lead read, "Arkansas likely became one of the latest states – and one of the first in the South – to allow medical marijuana after a proposed constitutional amendment received what appeared to be a majority of favorable votes."

The hedge in the story is understandable. The final vote tally, according to the website of the Secretary of State, shows the amendment passed 582,076 to 514,363. That's with all 75 counties reporting. Very close.

Passage does not mean the door has been thrown open for doctors to start prescribing marijuana-based therapies for the few medical conditions allowed. For now, marijuana in any form is still illegal. Selling it or even having it in your possession could result in your arrest on drug charges. Significant penalties and a criminal record could well follow unless you take decisive action to protect your rights.

What approval of Issue 6 means is that state officials will now begin meeting to decide how to implement policies. The state's surgeon general says step one is forming a commission. That body will come up with recommendations for safe, smooth implementation. Various agencies will then figure out how to manage regulation and enforcement. That's all expected to take months.

But, as we noted in a previous post, there are some who suggest it will take even more time than that to see medical marijuana in general use. Federal law still deems marijuana illegal. Many doctors don't know what that means for them legally. They also remain uncertain about what the drug can do or how it should be managed.

Where questions exist, caution is advised.

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