A Fayetteville-based group has about half the signatures it needs for a proposed law to legalize marijuana for medical use to appear on the November general election ballot, according to a group spokesman.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC), the proposed law’s sponsor, began its campaign to collect the needed 62,507 signatures from registered voters after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel certified the initiative in April last year. The group must collect the signatures by July 6 for the proposed law to appear on the November ballot.
“I strongly believe it will (pass),” said Ryan Denham, campaign manager for ACC. “Its main purpose is to protect sick and dying patients from arrest and prosecution.”
He said the law calls for marijuana, also referred to as cannabis, to be available by prescription only to people with certain health conditions, such as those with glaucoma, epilepsy, Hepatitis C and terminally ill conditions. Denham said the law also allows for those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — such as those suffering from psychological effects of war, rape or other traumatic situations — to apply for medicinal use of cannabis.
On the other hand, it would limit access for pain patients to only those who present with “intractable” pain, defined as:
(Arkansas for Compassionate Care) …intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than 6 months
So if you have, say, neuropathic pain, a condition for which we have more legitimate, peer-reviewed, gold-standard research proving marijuana’s superior efficacy to pharmaceuticals than any of the other conditions defined in the Arkansas initiative, you’ll have to:
- Go see your primary care physician for a diagnosis of your pain ($),
- Get a prescription for some legal painkiller that is toxic to your liver ($),
- And if that doesn’t work, you’ll have to keep trying every other legal toxic painkiller, each one a risk for side effects and addiction ($),
- Then if none of those drugs work, you’ll have to try acupuncture ($), massage therapy ($), and any other treatment that might help the pain,
- Then if the drugs and treatments don’t work, you’ll have to try surgery or surgeries, each one a risk for complications and death, to help the pain ($$$)
- Finally, if all the drugs and treatments and surgeries haven’t worked and you’ve tried for at least six months, then you can try the medical marijuana that is superior to all those pills you tried, has very mild side effects (including a pleasant one), is not toxic or addictive, and has never killed anyone in recorded human history.
This initiative forbids home growing if you live within five miles of a dispensary, or if you live five or more miles away from a dispensary and you choose to shop at one (and we mean “one” – you specify which dispensary at which you’ll get your medicine):
[Patients are immune from arrest] If the Qualifying Patient lives more than five miles from a Nonprofit Dispensary, and has not specified that a Designated Caregiver or a Nonprofit Dispensary is allowed under state law to cultivate marijuana for the Qualifying Patient, and is in possession of not more than 6 flowering marijuana plants greater than 12 inches in height or diameter
There are plenty of other things in the initiative, most good, some bad, including:
- 2.5 ounce possession / purchase limit every fifteen days,
- Only one dispensary for every 25 pharmacies may exist and they must track every sale matched to the patient (so there’s this great list for a federal prosecutor of every person who ever bought marijuana there, how much, and how often),
- Reciprocity for other states’ medical marijuana cards,
- Acceptance of seeds and seedlings from other states’ legitimate medical marijuana growers,
- No discrimination in education*, housing*, employment, organ transplants, and child custody,
- Reimbursement for caregivers who grow for patients, including labor,
- Registry identification cards that protect patients and caregivers from arrest (cards might include a photo of the patient, will include patient’s and caregiver’s name and address and a “clear designation” as to whether you’re growing marijuana… a handy guide for any rippers, should you lose your card),
- Signed statements from patients and caregivers promising not to divert marijuana to healthy people (to press additional charges against anyone who does so),
- Revocation of your card should you divert marijuana to healthy people,
- A specific ban on the use of marijuana by caregivers**,
- Employers don’t have to accommodate ingestion of marijuana in the workplace or working under the influence of marijuana***,
- Landlords can ban smoking medical marijuana, but not vaporization or other methods like edibles and tinctures,
- Doctors can’t work for dispensaries, in dispensaries, profit from dispensaries,or work in cooperation with dispensaries,
- and Requirement of a “bona-fide physician/patient relationship” (often used to subvert the possibility of specialty “medical marijuana clinics” that solely provide recommendations).
Now, given all that, even with the bad parts, Arkansans should support this initiative and get it on the ballot. However, it is these compromises – intractable pain, no home grow, one designated dispensary, and low possession/purchase limits – that give more evidence to the longer we keep trying to separate patients from “criminals” for using marijuana, the more difficult medical marijuana becomes for the neediest patients. While protections for employment and other rights get better for the patients who qualify, successive medical marijuana states have made it more difficult for patients to qualify in the first place.
Only legalization can ever give patients the full access and unimpeded use of medical marijuana they deserve. That won’t likely start in Arkansas, so it is incumbent on the West Coast medical marijuana states and Colorado to flip the switch from medical to legalization. Until a Western state legalizes, the best any other state can hope for is a medical marijuana law that by all accounts will be more and more restricted the longer it takes to carry out.
* Unless it runs afoul of a federal restriction (i.e., Section 8 federal housing, federal student loans, etc.)
** Most medical marijuana states protect caregivers from arrest for possession, cultivation, and trafficking marijuana. There are no laws against smoking marijuana; pot smokers who get busted are busted for possession. So, since a caregiver can’t get busted for possession and there is no such charge as “smoking marijuana”, caregivers who smoke pot are usually cannot be prosecuted.
*** Most medical marijuana states say employers don’t have to “accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace”. California, Oregon, Washington, and Michigan Supreme Courts have interpreted this to mean use of medical marijuana at any time, since its metabolites show up on workplace pee tests (i.e. “in the workplace”), so employers are free to discriminate against medical marijuana patients.