The fight is underway in earnest for voter approval of the initiated act to allow sick people to obtain marijuana for medical use, with doctors' approval, at state-regulated dispensaries. In recent days, the Family Council Action Committee unveiled a wholly dishonest and blatantly racist TV ad against the act, and the Arkansas Baptist Convention launched an email campaign, also filled with misinformation. In response Chris Kell of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the committee working for passage of the measure, offered the following point-by-point rebuttal of the opposition. Read an extended version with citations from the act itself at arktimes.com/medicalmarijuana.
The proposed marijuana law? Don't kid yourself. It's really about making it easier to get illegal drugs.*
Recreational marijuana — its possession, use, distribution, and cultivation — will remain illegal in Arkansas; the same penalties will apply for violations of the law. The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act establishes a regulatory framework for providing sick and dying patients safe access to an effective medicine they need today.
Prescriptions? Pharmacies? Not necessary... No oversight either. The grass growers and dope dealers will be in charge.*
Non-profit dispensaries inspected and licensed by the Arkansas Department of Health will issue medical marijuana only to qualifying patients with a doctor's recommendation. Because of their non-profit status, dispensaries will actually have more oversight than pharmacies, and unlike pharmacies their numbers will be limited.
The Arkansas Department of Health will entirely oversee the Arkansas Medical Marijuana program and will require written certifications from licensed Arkansas physicians for qualifying medical conditions.
Almost anyone will qualify grow, use and distribute this dangerous drug.*
Only patients suffering from one of 15 debilitating conditions will be allowed to obtain a licensed Arkansas physician's recommendation to grow and use medical marijuana. They must live more than five miles from a dispensary.
The doctor's certificate, unlike a prescription, never has to be renewed and the patient never has to be reevaluated. The certificate is good for a lifetime.^
The physician's written certification that a patient has a qualifying condition is only used to obtain a license from the Arkansas Department of Health — which will then issue a "Registry Identification Card" stating the patient's status as a Medical Marijuana patient. Pursuant to Section 105, subsection (e)...Registry Identification Cards expire one year after the date of issuance, unless the Physician states in the written certification that he believes the Qualifying Patient would benefit from medical marijuana only until a specified earlier date, then the Registry Identification Card shall expire on that date. In order to renew your "Registry Identification Card" you must provide a new written certification from your physician.
If medical marijuana was good medicine, groups like the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society would endorse these measures. By and large, the medical community simply does not support state marijuana initiatives.^
A large and growing number of medical and health organizations have recognized marijuana's medical value.
And in 2009, the AMA — the largest and traditionally the most cautious and conservative physician organization — made a major shift in its position, calling on the federal government to reconsider marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug, which bars medical use under federal law.
Surveys of physicians also show strong support for medical marijuana. For example, a 2005 national survey of physicians conducted by HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion found that 73 percent of doctors supported use of marijuana to treat nausea, pain, and other symptoms associated with AIDS, cancer and glaucoma. Fifty-six percent would recommend medical marijuana to patients if permitted by state law, even if it remained illegal under federal law.
*Family Council ad, ^Arkansas Baptist Convention e-mail