Pubdate: Sat, 23 Jul 2016
Source: Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette (Fayetteville, AR)
Copyright: 2016 Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC.
Author: Brian Fanney


If passed, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would be one of the most 
permissive medical marijuana measures in the country, Henny Lasley, a 
founding member of Smart Colorado, said Friday.

Lasley was the headline speaker at a meeting of the Coalition for 
Safer Arkansas Communities held at the Arkansas State Chamber of 
Commerce in Little Rock. The meeting attracted about 35 people, among 
them law enforcement officers, lawmakers and employees of treatment 
centers. The coalition says on its website that is an organization of 
parents, teachers, medical professionals, law enforcement officials, 
business owners and community leaders.

"I have to say I was blown away by the ballot initiative that was 
proposed and deeply concerned, to be honest with you," she said. "The 
big reason is there are - I think - between 50 and 60 reasons [in the 
proposal] why someone could qualify to be a patient to receive 
medical marijuana."

Smart Colorado formed after the 2012 passage of an amendment to 
Colorado's Constitution legalizing recreational marijuana. The group 
advocates for policy and education to keep marijuana away from youth.

There are six reasons why someone could receive medical marijuana in 
Colorado, although one reason is pain, which can be broadly 
construed, Lasley said.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act is "the most expansive piece of 
medical marijuana regulation that I've seen," Lasley said. "I believe 
it's closer to the recreational world more than the medical world."

In Colorado, 106,000 people possess a medical marijuana card, she 
said, and about 2,700 identify seizures and 4,000 identify cancer as 
the reason they have a card. More than 90,000 have a card because of 
pain, she said.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act would allow the use of marijuana 
for those with intractable pain, which is "pain that has not 
responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures 
for more than three (3) months," according to the act.

"In order to prevent the Health Department from denying someone that 
they don't feel has enough intractable pain, we specifically named 
them," said Melissa Fults, campaign director for the group supporting 
the act, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, in an interview later 
Friday. "A lot of those conditions would qualify under intractable pain."

Fults said she does not want to legalize recreational marijuana.

"This is not even close to recreational. We have very specific 
illnesses," she said. "It also says you have to have that 
relationship with that doctor."

Lasley did not mention the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, a 
competing measure.

The secretary of state's office is counting signatures to see if the 
amendment qualifies for the ballot. The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act 
has already been approved for ballot inclusion.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment also would allow for 
intractable pain to be treated with marijuana, but the pain must be 
suffered over a longer period. It is defined as "pain that has not 
responded to ordinary medications, treatment, or surgical measures 
for more than six (6) months," according to the amendment text.

It also would allow marijuana use for about 20 other qualifying conditions.

Terry Benham, campaign manager for the Coalition for Safer Arkansas 
Communities, said Friday that the group will oppose both measures. 
The time to wait and see what will make the ballot is over, he said, 
adding that he expects both proposals to show up on ballots in November.

He said the coalition will not focus on opposing the measures on 
moral grounds. Instead, the group will concentrate on business, 
public safety, economic and medical issues, he said.

Benham showed a draft advertisement aimed at mothers.

"We know what they're going to do. They're going to tug at mom's 
heartstrings about that child that has epilepsy," he said. "We will 
focus our ad campaign on some of the same people that they're going 
to focus their ad campaign on. And we believe if we present a message 
of safety and concern versus a compassion message, we believe that 
moms will connect to safety and concern about their kid."

The coalition raised a total of $5,190 through June, according to its 
latest campaign finance report.

Arkansans United For Medical Marijuana, which backs the Arkansas 
Medical Marijuana Amendment, raised $444,982 through June. Arkansans 
for Compassionate Care raised $142,252 through June.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom