LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- State lawmakers will soon debate two more possible changes to Arkansas’ medical marijuana law. One bill that is likely to be filed would prohibit patients from smoking marijuana. The other would delay implementation until the federal government legalizes its use.
“All this is,” said State Senator Jason Rapert, “is snake oil wrapped up in a joint that you’re going to smoke.”
Sen. Rapert supports a smoking ban, and said he will author a bill to harmonize the state law with a federal law. He mentioned that he is watching the implementation of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment closely, “to make sure that, if this is going to go forward, that it’s going forward as medicine. You don’t have to smoke dope and get high to get well.”
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, or AMMA, was approved by voters in November 2016. It places no restriction on the method by which patients use marijuana. Sen. Rapert suggested that other means, such as edibles, pills, or oils could suffice, and that there would be a much lower risk of fraud or abuse than with smoking.
“Who’s gonna ask a three-year-old kid with epilepsy to smoke a joint? C’mon! It’s just recreational marijuana using, for their own purposes, the sad stories of people that truly need help and are truly looking for assistance from some new drug that could help them,” he claimed.
David Couch, who ran the campaign to pass the AMMA, noted that most patients who use marijuana do not smoke it. Instead, he claimed, they are more likely to consume it through an edible or vaporize it. But since each patient responds to marijuana, which has more than 400 strains, differently, some need to smoke it for their treatment.
“Say, for example, you have an eating disorder, or you have cancer,” Couch explained, “and you might not be able to take it in an edible form. You might want to smoke it, and smoking it would get it into your system faster and more efficiently than some other forms.”
Under a bill Sen. Rapert is preparing to file, patients would not be able to access marijuana at all. It would force implementation of the AMMA to wait until the law no longer conflicts with federal law.
“Under the 1970 federal Controlled Substances Act,” he explained, “marijuana usage, distribution, possession, is illegal under United States federal law, and that has not changed. There are people serving in prison right now for the same activities that, apparently, Arkansas thinks it can proceed with. We are a nation of laws and a state of laws. You must change the law to remove an irreconcilable difference that we have between state and federal law on this particular issue.”
Arkansas is one of 28 states that have, either through legislative action or election, chosen to legalize medical uses of marijuana. Sen. Rapert blamed much of that spread on the Obama administration, which chose to deprioritize the prosecution of some marijuana crimes.
“Fifty four percent of the people of the state of Arkansas voted for it,” Couch responded, “so it’s kind of hard to undo it now, since it was only a couple months ago.”
Sen. Rapert mentioned that he had not heard from a single medical professional who supported the use of medical marijuana, and added that he believes the AMMA is about money, rather than medicine.
“In terms of people voting for something, in politics, I think it’s not a news flash that people sometimes lie,” he said. “And there has not been truth in advertising for the medical marijuana amendment.
“This is nothing but smoke, dope, and mirrors,” he said. “And Arkansas needs to wake up and make sure people know that truth.”
“Lawmakers need to educate themselves more on medical marijuana,” Couch stated. “Senator Rapert and some of the others think that medical marijuana is like watching a Cheech and Chong movie. It’s not like that anymore.”
Sen. Rapert said both bills could be ready to be filed in a few days.