Arkansas: Group Trying To Push Medical Marijuana Issue

By Jordan Grummer, Times Record

Arkansas: Group Trying To Push Medical Marijuana Issue The leader of Arkansans for Compassionate Care said his group is hoping to gain more support in Sebastian County for a proposed measure that would legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state.

In April, the organization was given until July 6, 2012, to collect 62,507 signatures from registered voters to qualify the proposal — The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act — for the November 2012 general election ballot. So far, about 16,000 signatures have been gathered, but less than 1,000 of those have come from voters in Sebastian County, said ACC spokesman Ryan Denham on Wednesday during a meeting at Sweet Bay Coffee, 3400 Rogers Ave.

The meeting was for people interested in volunteering to gather signatures for the initiative that would make Arkansas the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana, but it only attracted two people not affiliated with the group. Denham remained optimistic about the movement in the Fort Smith area despite the lack of attendance. He said the meeting was only made official about three days ago, and more attention has been placed, so far, on places like Little Rock, Jonesboro and the northwest Arkansas region, where support has "been strong."

The meeting was also at 3 p.m. on a business day, he added.

He said the main purpose of the law would be keeping sick people who use marijuana for medicinal purposes out of jail, and it would be strictly regulated by the Arkansas Department of Health. Under the law, it would be legal for people who are sick and dying to use and grow marijuana if prescribed by a doctor.

"It wouldn’t be out of control like California and other states," Denham said.

Only 30 nonprofit dispensaries could be approved in the state; communities could enact laws to bar the dispensaries; and doctors could only prescribe marijuana for specific, serious medical conditions, Denham said.

Charlie Little, 48, of Mansfield said shortly after the meeting that he used to use marijuana recreationally, but quit 17 years ago when he became a Christian. He suffered nerve damage in his back 30 years ago, but traditional pain medications either gave him bad side effects or didn’t work, Little said. He said marijuana could help ease pain he described as ice picks being stuck in his legs.

"This is my last chance. If this fails, I’ll move to another state," Little said.

Denham said some doctors in the state already recommend marijuana to their patients, but will not tell patients how to obtain it. That puts patients in a bad position, he said.

Photo Source: Brian D. Sanderford, Times Record