Family Council Says Medical Marijuana Proposals Are Pretext For Recreational, Plans Fall Campaign

Sep 9, 2016

(file photo) Family Council Action Committee Director Jerry Cox at his office.
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

One of the key opposition groups that helped narrowly defeat a medical marijuana measure in 2012 is gearing up to do the same this fall. The Family Council Action Committee outlined its arguments and announced its intention to launch an active campaign at the state Capitol on Thursday.

Family Council’s director Jerry Cox laid forth the crux of his argument against the two medical marijuana ballot measures, “These measures are simply recreational marijuana masquerading as medicine.”

He argued that the sponsor of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Melissa Fults, and the sponsor of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, David Couch, are deliberately trying to deceive voters for what he claims is their goal of legalizing recreational marijuana.

“These measures meet the definition of recreational marijuana. That’s what they are and that’s what they’re intended to be by the people that sponsor these,” said Cox. “They’ve been very shrewd in how they have marketed these to the people of Arkansas, talking about compassion, talking about people with real diseases. They’re riding the coattails of those people with real diseases just trying to legalize marijuana for their own recreational purposes.”

Cox objected to the argument that marijuana’s alleged medicinal properties can be delivered to the body through smoking or eating it. He also singled out pain and nausea as being overly broad symptoms for doctors to consider when issuing a note for medical marijuana use. When asked by KUAR, Cox said he does consider pain and nausea to be appropriate categories of symptoms for prescribing drugs that are legal.

Responding to another question from KUAR, Cox said if products derived from marijuana go through a federal regulatory system and the Food and Drug Administration he would not object to their use.

“If it were controlled by the FDA, as in testing and all that, and it was available with a prescription from a doctor through a pharmacy like you have other really powerful drugs we wouldn’t even be saying a word about it because it would be controlled,” Cox said. “We would not even be up here talking about it if were done the way opiates are done….we wouldn’t single out marijuana.”

The two ballot proposals require a doctor's note, rather than a prescription, be turned into the state Health Department for patients to get a medical marijuana card. The card allows patients to purchase marijuana at a pre-determined number of dispensaries. The initiated act has the Health Department regulate medical marijuana while the constitutional amendment would created a new commission for regulation and be enforced by the Alcoholic Beverage Control office.

He said his argument that medical marijuana is a Trojan horse for recreational use is not much different than the case Family Council presented to voters in 2012. But he said there is a different complexion to this election.

“There are a lot more players on the field, thankfully. Chief among them is the state Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe…also among them Farm Bureau, the state Chamber of Commerce and I believe medical associations will come online as well,” he said.

With other high profile organizations and people expected to play a role in the campaign against medical marijuana this fall, Cox says Family Council will primarily focus on influencing its conservative, Christian “sphere of influence” of about 5,000 people and 1,000 churches. Cox said the group will still pursue a wide swath of media opportunities including the possibility of television ads pending funding and the intensity of other groups’ involvement.

When asked by an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter if he thought one of the ballot items is worse than the other Cox said they’re “different kinds of bad.” He sees the constitutional amendment as a nod to big businesses interested in growing and selling marijuana and views the initiated act’s biggest flaw as allowing limited cultivation.

In June, a Talk Business & Politics poll found a majority of likely Arkansas voters support legalizing marijuana for medical uses.