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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n496/a10.html
Newshawk: http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm
Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jul 2016
Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (Fayetteville, AR)
Copyright: 2016 Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC.
Contact: http://www.nwaonline.com/submit/letter/
Website: http://www.nwaonline.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/828
Author: Brian Fanney


If passed, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would be one of the most permissive medical marijuana measures in the country, Henny Lasley, a founding member of Smart Colorado, said Friday.

Lasley was the headline speaker at a meeting of the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities held at the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce in Little Rock.  The meeting attracted about 35 people, among them law enforcement officers, lawmakers and employees of treatment centers.  The coalition says on its website that is an organization of parents, teachers, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, business owners and community leaders.

“I have to say I was blown away by the ballot initiative that was proposed and deeply concerned, to be honest with you,” she said.  “The big reason is there are – I think – between 50 and 60 reasons [in the proposal] why someone could qualify to be a patient to receive medical marijuana.”

Smart Colorado formed after the 2012 passage of an amendment to Colorado’s Constitution legalizing recreational marijuana.  The group advocates for policy and education to keep marijuana away from youth.

There are six reasons why someone could receive medical marijuana in Colorado, although one reason is pain, which can be broadly construed, Lasley said.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is “the most expansive piece of medical marijuana regulation that I’ve seen,” Lasley said.  “I believe it’s closer to the recreational world more than the medical world.”

In Colorado, 106,000 people possess a medical marijuana card, she said, and about 2,700 identify seizures and 4,000 identify cancer as the reason they have a card.  More than 90,000 have a card because of pain, she said.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would allow the use of marijuana for those with intractable pain, which is “pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than three ( 3 ) months,” according to the act.

“In order to prevent the Health Department from denying someone that they don’t feel has enough intractable pain, we specifically named them,” said Melissa Fults, campaign director for the group supporting the act, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, in an interview later Friday.  “A lot of those conditions would qualify under intractable pain.”

Fults said she does not want to legalize recreational marijuana.

“This is not even close to recreational.  We have very specific illnesses,” she said.  “It also says you have to have that relationship with that doctor.”

Lasley did not mention the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, a competing measure.

The secretary of state’s office is counting signatures to see if the amendment qualifies for the ballot.  The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act has already been approved for ballot inclusion.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment also would allow for intractable pain to be treated with marijuana, but the pain must be suffered over a longer period.  It is defined as “pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures for more than six ( 6 ) months,” according to the amendment text.

It also would allow marijuana use for about 20 other qualifying conditions.

Terry Benham, campaign manager for the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities, said Friday that the group will oppose both measures.  The time to wait and see what will make the ballot is over, he said, adding that he expects both proposals to show up on ballots in November.

He said the coalition will not focus on opposing the measures on moral grounds.  Instead, the group will concentrate on business, public safety, economic and medical issues, he said.

Benham showed a draft advertisement aimed at mothers.

“We know what they’re going to do.  They’re going to tug at mom’s heartstrings about that child that has epilepsy,” he said.  “We will focus our ad campaign on some of the same people that they’re going to focus their ad campaign on.  And we believe if we present a message of safety and concern versus a compassion message, we believe that moms will connect to safety and concern about their kid.”

The coalition raised a total of $5,190 through June, according to its latest campaign finance report.

Arkansans United For Medical Marijuana, which backs the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, raised $444,982 through June.  Arkansans for Compassionate Care raised $142,252 through June. 

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom