Ark. governor, doctors criticize medical marijuana push

Two medical marijuana proposals will be on the November ballot, and a strong message from Governor Asa Hutchinson and members of the medical community were given against the measures

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- In less than two months, the State of Arkansas will vote on whether or not medical marijuana should be legal in the state.

Marijuana is not medicine; that was the message from Governor Asa Hutchinson Monday.

"Smoking marijuana is not what's needed. It hasn't been tested. It has to go through the FDA approval process, and it's really not right to determine what’s good medicine from a ballot initiative,” Hutchinson said at the podium.

The Governor, a former head of the DEA, called a press conference at the capitol. By his side, nearly a dozen members of the Arkansas medical community.

"We would never advise anybody to dry something, set it on fire, and breathe it into their lungs. It's ludicrous to think that's a way you'd go about delivering medicine,” said Dr. Richard Smith, an addiction specialist at UAMS.

"The initiatives that will be put on the ballot, do not lead to good medicine, it is not good medical practice, and it is not best for the patient,” the Governor went on to say.

"We love our patients, and we want what's best for them and their families. The messaging from big marijuana is both deceptive and misguided,” said Arkansas Attorney General, Dr. Gregory Bledsoe.

THV11 asked the Governor -- why now?

"People are starting to focus on the election in November and whenever you have major ballot initiatives, people are starting to focus on November and with issues that impact the state so much, it's really important to speak out on it and start providing information on the two marijuana ballot initiatives,” the Governor explained.

Convenient timing, that's what those in favor of medical marijuana in the state say about the press conference denouncing the drug.

"It saddens me because a group of doctors is speaking for all the doctors and many of the doctors that have approved it have been silenced,” said Mellissa Fults after the meeting. She wrote one of the proposals that will be on the ballot in November.

"The sad thing is, there are so many doctors that feel like this is a better medicine, yet in the state of Arkansas, if they tell their patients that it is better medicine, and they should use it, they stand to not only lose their medical license, but to go to prison.”

We asked her if she believes the announcement will have any effect on Arkansas voters.

"I think our voters are smarter than that. I think the statements they made were an insult to both patients and the voters in Arkansas. The voters in Arkansas realize that other patients in other states have access to this medicine and that it is not fair for the patients in Arkansas to not have access to this medicine.”

Both sides of the argument say they're hopeful that Arkansas voters will hear their reasoning before November's election.


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