It's unsurprising that an agency under the control of Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has come out against legalization of medical marijuana.
But the Arkansas Health Department
has done so. It has issued this statement:
ON THE BALLOT: This proposal has qualified for a November vote. A second proposal is being reviewed by the secretary of state. A vote for either is a vote for relief for many people who've found marijuana useful.
I don't like that a state-funded agency is using state-funded employees to get involved in a political campaign. But we went down this road in 2014
when Human Services was the outspoken opponent of medical marijuana. The law prohibiting such activities by state employees in behalf of partisan candidates specifically exempts use of public materials in ballot issue campaigns. Other laws, as an analysis done two years ago indicates, also aim at activity for candidates, not ballot issues.
Still, the Health Department has made some broad assertions about the efficacy of medical marijuana that its adherents will vigorously dispute.
Science is of only modest relevance to me. The anecdotal testimony of sick people on the benefits of pot is good enough for me, along with the continuing futility of the state's war on drugs. For once, I guess, a state agency is at least not oppressing gay people or women's medical rights, though Health Department officials have been accomplices in those efforts, too.
A Health Department spokesman, Meg Mirivel, responded to my question about the department's political activity:
This ballot measure names ADH as the regulatory agency, so we have an obvious stake in it. We have gotten many questions about our position, and have noticed misinformation circulating about our position, so we are clarifying what our position is. This is not the first time ADH has articulated this position on medical marijuana.