Advocates in Arkansas continue to push for legalizing medicinal marijuana. But before voters see any measure on the November ballot, more than 60,000 signatures need to be collected.
Medical marijuana has been legalized for use in 20 states and Washington, D.C., but remains illegal in Arkansas. Back in 2012, a measure to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana failed by two percentage points, but advocates are hoping for a different outcome this year.
Two state advocate groups for medicinal marijuana are trying to get initiatives on the ballot. A proposal by Arkansans For Compassionate Care seeks medical marijuana to be allowed for people suffering from specific diseases and painful ailments. It would also allow those who live away from the marijuana dispensaries, perhaps in rural areas, to grow a few of their own medicinal marijuana plants.
A similar proposal by Arkansans For Responsible Medicine does not include language for self-grown marijuana.
To get the proposed measures placed on the November 2014 ballot, the groups each need to collect 62,507 signatures by July 7. An official with Arkansans for Compassionate Care said they have already collected about 10,000 signatures.
A contingent of detractors criticizing the possible dangers of marijuana stands in the way of the proposals.
“Once this cat is out of the bag, it becomes a monster, ” said Pastor Tom Hatley with Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers.
Hatley said if marijuana is legalized, things could get out of control fast.
“What we have today is going from purple haze to black haze,” he said. “This is very dangerous. It’s no longer a gateway drug.”
Steve Lowry, a former Drug Enforcement Agency agent, agrees with Hatley. Lowry believes legalizing marijuana would ruin futures of the next generation.
“By legalizing marijuana, we are basically telling our kids and society that using marijuana is OK,” he said. “We are saying marijuana is nothing more than smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol.”
Emma Yingling, with Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said a vote for medical marijuana could give hope to those with chronic and painful medical conditions.
“Not all sort of pain medicines work for everybody,” she said. “A kind of pain medicine that could potentially work for those people should be available.”
Medical marijuana would be available for those suffering from specific diseases and ailments. That’s exactly what mom Melissa Davis believes should be the law.
Davis’ children Cierra and CJ Davis have PIG-T CDG, Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation. Davis said her children have thousands of seizures a day, one every 15 to 30 seconds.
“The disease involves iratractable seizures that don’t respond to modern medicine,” she said. “We have tried many many medicines and they just do not work”
Davis said CBD oil, which comes from the marijuana plant, could save the life of her children.
“It’s been shown to either greatly reduce seizures and sometimes stop seizures,” she said. “It even makes it possible for people to come off of all the pharmaceuticals”
Despite the growing number of signatures on the proposed initiatives, many stand firm on their stance against marijuana as potentially dangerous.
“This is a permanent addiction drug that can ruin your life,” Hatley said.
Others, like Davis, are praying their stories change the minds of those against marijuana.
“I just want a chance to give them a chance,” Davis said.