Arkansas Child Advocacy Groups Oppose Medical Marijuana

Oct 12, 2016

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families logo

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the Arkansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics released  joint statement Wednesday opposing two statewide ballot measures to legalize medical marijuana.  In a press release, the organizations gave the following reasons for the opposition:

There are currently no published studies on the efficacy of the marijuana plant as a medication in children.

While there are preliminary studies that have shown standardized compounds in marijuana do help patients with some specific chronic conditions, these studies have not been conducted in standardized clinical trials with marijuana plants.

Marijuana edibles, particularly those that look like baked goods or candy, present a poisoning risk to children.

No drug should ever be administered through smoking. Smoking marijuana has a well-documented adverse effect on lung function.

Because marijuana is not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and the purity and THC content cannot be consistently verified, the risk benefit cannot be determined.

Arkansas Chapter the American Academy of Pediatrics President and a former board member of Arkansas Advocates  says the organizations are particularly concerned about the lack of clinical studies and the spread of edible marijuana varieties.

“We see that just like with the tobacco industry, a lot of these things begin to get marketed towards kids in the form of things like Pop Tarts and Gummy Bears, Brownies—things that kids are familiar with and interested in,” he said.

Rodgers notes that marijuana use in children could also have negative developmental side effects.

David Couch, the lead sponsor of issue 6, The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment,  said  it is “surprising” that the progressive Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families would take a position against the initiatives.  He responded to the two groups’ claims with the following emailed statement:

What a disappointment from an organization whose mission is to advocate for children and families.   The press release states, “we recognize there is anecdotal evidence” that marijuana “could benefit and provide relief to some children with chronic life-limiting and debilitating conditions”   What they mean by that statement is that there are thousands of parents across this country, including many in this state, who have given their children marijuana so that they will eat while undergoing chemotherapy (and not die) or so that they will stop having seizures (and not die).  Opposing this is how one advocates for children and families?  This organization has crawled into bed with the Chamber of Commerce who by the way opposes most of the issues and policies that this organization advocates for. Why does this organization want parents in Arkansas whose children and families benefit from this medicine to continue to have to buy from drug dealers and be criminals?  Is the purity and THC content of marijuana purchased from a drug dealer consistently verified?  Is incarcerating a family member arrested for buying marijuana for their sick child a good policy?  The release shows a total lack of knowledge about this issue and Issue 6 in particular.  First, Issue 6 would require that the purity and THC content of marijuana be verified.  Second, Issue 6 does not allow edibles unless approved by the regulatory authority with the oversight of the General Assembly.  Third, very few patients especially children “smoke” marijuana.   There are many other ways to take this medicine without smoking.

Couch said that his amendment would also give appropriate regulatory to state agencies to determine appropriate packaging and labeling.

“If they make a regulation that allows some sort of edible, that has to be approved by the General Assembly as well. And so it’s really not a marijuana candy. It’s something that’s thrown in there to scare people,” he said.

Couch also said there is anecdotal evidence that marijuana can be used by children undergoing chemotherapy to stimulate their appetites and he says the drug has also been shown to be effective with kids who suffer from seizures.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, a competing measure sponsored by the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care, also includes language that requires the Department of Health to regulate labeling.