Pubdate: Thu, 02 Sep 2004
Source: Arkansas Traveler, The (AR Edu)
Copyright: 2004 The Arkansas Traveler
Author: Stephen Coger, Contributing Writer
Cited: Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Cited: Drug Enforcement Administration
Bookmark: (Ballot Initiatives)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


The question of medical marijuana is an easy answer for most people,
and it is either yes or no. Both sides have strong feelings for their

According to Denele Campbell, executive director of Alliance for a
Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas (ARDPARK), the most recent polls
show that 66 percent of Arkansans are in favor of the use of marijuana
for medical purposes. Polls were conducted by the University of
Arkansas Political Science Department, and later an independent
research firm from New York.

ARDPARK is a political action organization. Its goal is to put medical
marijuana on the ballot this fall. An ARDPARK committee, Arkansas
Alliance for Medical Marijuana (AAMM), was on campus Monday and
Tuesday last week collecting signatures.

AAMM came to the university because it's members consider the UA to be
a high-traffic area on public property.

"That's one of the things that's still wonderful about the
university," Campbell said. "It's a wonderful place where people can
engage each other in political dialogue. That's real important to
understand, because most people think that we can just go to the mall
or Wal-Mart and get signatures, but we can't."

Wal-Mart and its sidewalks and parking lots are private property.
While some businesses allow petitions inside, Wal-Mart and the
Northwest Arkansas Mall are not among them.

"On public streets, the sidewalks are considered public property, so
we can set up there," as long as they don't impede the flow of traffic
or business, Campbell said.

Many people have a personal experience with a friend or relative whose
pain could be alleviated with use of marijuana, Campbell said. These
personal experiences might have led to much of the support for medical

"People would want to have the right to use medical marijuana" if they
were in pain, she said. "Some people support the legislation because
they can picture themselves suffering from crippling arthritis or
undergoing chemotherapy."

Others agree with Campbell.

"I think it's a great idea," said one local nursing home spokesperson
on the condition of anonymity.

On one occasion, outside Fayetteville, he witnessed a "ganja cake" be
fed to a resident. Afterward the resident was "happier" and "more
cooperative with his care."

However, getting the bill on the November ballot will be an uphill
battle. Many people are skeptical, and with the backing of the
American Cancer Society, marijuana use for medical purposes is still
opposed. According the American Cancer Society Web site, "marijuana
cigarettes have more tar than regular cigarettes. Many of the
cancer-causing substances in tobacco are also found in marijuana."

Giving a patient that has suffered from lung cancer a marijuana
cigarette might do more harm than help, opponents to legalized
marijuana say. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has also listed facts
about marijuana on its Web site.

"In a recent study by the Mayo Clinic, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol found
in marijuana) was shown to be less effective than standard treatments
in helping cancer patients regain lost appetites," according to the
DEA Web site.

However, the American Cancer Society also acknowledges the fact that
because marijuana is illegal it cannot be tested for information on
its effects on the body.

Renee Johnsen, who also collected signatures last week, said many
people have misconceptions about medical marijuana "I think one of the
main [misconceptions] is that medical marijuana will be gradually
legalized for everybody," she said.

She added that some people might not be aware of how much relief
people get from it when they are very sick or dying. If those who had
suffered severe pain and taken marijuana would speak out, "the stigma
of it being an illegal thing to do or a terrible thing to do would be
banished," Johnsen said.

Regarding the statistics, Campbell said that among certain demographic
groups, the percentiles were in the 70s. The lowest percentages came
from those who consider themselves conservative, but even then the
numbers were above 50 percent.

"This tells us that people are compassionate and have common sense
about these things," Campbell said.

"I personally think people support it ... our drug laws are what they
are because people have abdicated their duties as a citizen," Campbell

ARDPARK was founded in 1999 in Fayetteville. Board members are from
Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas. Those seeking more information can
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