Medical marijuana has finally made its way to the Bible Belt, as Arkansas officially legalized the drug on Tuesday in a vote of 53.2% to 46.8%, according to the New York Times.
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, also known as Issue 6, is an amendment to Arkansas' state constitution that officially legalizes the distribution and possession of medical marijuana. The new amendment is specifically meant for patients who have any of 17 qualifying conditions, which include cancer, Tourette's syndrome, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder and HIV/AIDS. Patients with a written statement from a doctor certifying they have a qualifying condition will be able to purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries, and will not be permitted to grow their own marijuana plants.
Issue 6 is not the first time medical marijuana has come up on the state ballot: In 2012, Arkansas voted on the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Question, which was struck down in a vote of 51.4% to 48.5%. A separate medical marijuana proposal, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, or Issue 7, was also initially slated to be on the ballot in 2016, but was later disqualified due to invalid signatures. That proposal, unlike Issue 6, would have allowed medical marijuana patients to grow their own cannabis, as well as covered 56 medical conditions, rather than 17.
Legal marijuana sales, dispensaries around the US, recreational and medical
Legal marijuana sales, dispensaries around the US, recreational and medical
The dispensary area at Columbia Care, one of New York City's first medicinal marijuana dispensaries, is seen, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, in New York. New Yorkers with cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's disease or other qualifying conditions will be able to obtain medical marijuana as early as Thursday, 18 months after lawmakers passed what is considered one of the strictest medical cannabis programs in the nation. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
In this Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015 photo, cookbooks for use with marijuana are available inside of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A sample of cannabis is shown in a sniffer at Shango Premium Cannabis, in Portland , Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana stores have begun sales to recreational users, marking a big day for the budding pot industry in the state. Some of the more than 250 dispensaries in Oregon that already offer medical marijuana opened their doors early Thursday to begin selling the drug just moments after it became legal to do so. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 07: A man leaves Columbia Care, the first medical marijuana dispensary in New York City on January 7, 2016 in New York City. The law allowing medical marijuana was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014; the law stipulates that the legal marijuana may not be ingested by smoking it. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Corey Young, a founder of courier service CannaRabbit LLC, picks up a delivery of marijuana from a dispensary as part of a wholesale transfer in Denver, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 8: Takoma Wellness Center is a family run medical marijuana dispensary in Washington, DC. Employee, David Malpica, sets up the dispensary room before business hours on Sunday, March 8, 2015. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Marijuana sits on a counter after being delivered to a dispensary by the courier service CannaRabbit LLC in Louisville, Colorado, U.S., on Friday, March 27, 2015. CannaRabbit and peers are rushing in as regional truckers and nationwide haulers United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. steer clear of transporting marijuana on concerns over the lack of nationwide clearance of a practice that is still illegal in most states. Photographer: Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA JULY 05, 2014 --- Shoppers lined up at one of many pot vendors stall at cannabis farmers market organized by California Heritage Market at West Coast Collective, a marijuana dispensary in Boyle Heights. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Vendors and growers prepare their displays for card-carrying medical marijuana patients attending Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Containers of the medical marijuana product known as 'Wax' are displayed at Los Angeles' first-ever cannabis farmer's market at the West Coast Collective medical marijuana dispensary, on the fourth of July, or Independence Day, in Los Angeles, California on July 4, 2014 where organizer's of the 3-day event plan to showcase high quality cannabis from growers and vendors throughout the state. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Customers wait in line early in the morning at Amazon Organics, a pot dispensary in Eugene, Ore., to purchase recreational marijuana on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. Oregon marijuana shops began selling marijuana Thursday for the first time to recreational users who are at least 21 years old, marking a big day for the budding pot industry. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, Shamay Flaharty, of Lewiston, Ill., who has multiple sclerosis and is hoping cannabis will help ease her pain and headaches, leaves with Eric Sweatt, partner and manager of Salveo Health and Wellness, a licensed medical cannabis dispensary, in Canton, Ill. Illinois will begin its first medical marijuana sales within the next two weeks. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
In this Wednesday, July 29, 2015 photo A.J. Lessa, of Cumberland, R.I., a patient advisor at the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, arranges marijuana products in a display case at the center in Providence, R.I. Rhode Island officials say revenues from taxing and regulating medical marijuana have been lower than projected in the two years that dispensaries have been legal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
This photo taken March 28, 2014 shows Cherry City Compassion, a medical marijuana store in Salem, Ore. Until now, medical pot shops have operated in a gray area. That's changed under a law passed last year that legalizes medical marijuana dispensaries so long as they apply for and are granted a license. (AP Photo/Chad Garland)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Though Issue 6 won with Arkansas voters by a decisive margin of over 6%, the initiative has been met with significant opposition by the heavily conservative Arkansas government. Gov. Asa Hutchinson openly opposed the amendment, as did Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe and such government departments as the Arkansas Department of Health and the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
In the wake of Tuesday's vote, however, these conservative politicians signaled a desire to respect the wishes of their constituents. "The people voted this in," Gov. Hutchinson said in a news conference, "and I intend to implement it according to the will of the people of Arkansas."
Arkansas is one of the first southeastern states to adopt medical marijuana legalization, along with Florida, making Tuesday's vote an important step toward nationwide legalization. After the results of the 2016 elections, 28 states now have legal medical marijuana, along with the District of Columbia.