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URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v16/n580/a09.html
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Votes: 0
Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 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


A new group has formed to coordinate attacks on the proposed Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act and Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

State Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe is serving as spokesman for the group, Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana.

Members include: the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, the Coalition for Safer Arkansas Communities, the Family Council Action Committee and the Arkansas Committee for Ethics Policy.

“Well, it’s a very diverse coalition,” Bledsoe said in an interview Tuesday.  “We decided to put together all of our collective thinking on this because we’re unified on the fact that we think the medical marijuana issues would be bad for the state.”

The group exists to “advocate the disqualification and defeat” of both medical marijuana ballot initiatives, according to a filing posted to the Arkansas Ethics Commission’s website on Tuesday.

Asked about disqualification advocacy from the ballot, Bledsoe said a team of lawyers are reviewing both the act and the amendment.

“If there’s something in there that the attorneys feel is inaccurate or doesn’t properly describe what this legislation is and does, then they would seek to ask the courts to remove it from the ballot,” he said.

The Medical Cannabis Act was approved for the ballot by Secretary of State Mark Martin’s office.  The Medical Marijuana Amendment submitted additional signatures to the office on Friday and is awaiting a ruling by Martin’s office on whether it has sufficient signatures to make the ballot too.

Bledsoe said it is deceptive to call marijuana medicine.

“It’s a plant.  It hasn’t gone through [Food and Drug Administration] approval,” he said.  “I do believe there are compounds in the marijuana plant that hold some promise for helping patients, but the correct process is to go through the FDA and do the things that we would do for any other pharmaceutical.”

Bledsoe said Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana “wants to educate people about what’s going to actually be on the ballot.”

Of the Medical Cannabis Act, he said tax revenue would not be enough to cover the cost of regulation by the state Department of Health and, if excess tax revenue are generated, they would go toward subsidizing the cost of medical marijuana for low-income residents.

“That just boggles the brain why they would attack the affordability,” said Melissa Fults, campaign manager for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which supports the act.  “I mean, why attack poor people?”

The program will also pay for itself, she added.

Of the Medical Marijuana Amendment, Bledsoe said a powerful commission would be created that would control the marijuana trade in Arkansas.

“The commission gets to decide who gets the licenses for the dispensaries and who gets the licenses for the cultivation facilities and some of the qualifications for those.  They also get to decide how much marijuana the cultivation facilities can grow,” said David Couch, a Little Rockbased lawyer who is backing the amendment.

“We wanted the commission to have some sort of control to make sure there wasn’t an excessive amount of marijuana being grown in the state of Arkansas, which I thought was a very responsible thing to do.”

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, said that Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana wouldn’t prevent its members from campaigning individually.

“The understanding is that each group is still autonomous and can campaign as they think they need to reach their constituency,” he said.  “For example, the way Farm Bureau might approach it, or the chamber, might be a little different than how I might approach it with a church audience.”

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom