Medical Marijuana Backers Respond To Five Talking Points From Opposition

Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and other state health officials urging opposition to two medical marijuana ballot measures.
Credit David Monteith / KUAR News

A few talking points against two medical marijuana ballot measures, many of them familiar, have cropped up over the past few weeks as opponents continue to make their case in a string of press conferences. Supporters of medical marijuana have heard them before and have retorts at the ready.

KUAR has recently covered some of the arguments put forward by Governor Asa Hutchinson, Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, and the Family Council. In last week's podcast the deputy director of Arkansans For Compassionate Care responded to a string of arguments put forward through the Hutchinson administration.

Little Rock Police Department Chief Kenton Buckner and Jerry Cox with the Arkansas Family Council have said backers of medical marijuana are deliberately deceiving voters, calling both ballot measures a Trojan horse for recreational use.

Denham's response, "We were started by patients and their families, real Arkansans that need medical cannabis for a variety of medical conditions like multiple sclerosis or cancer or hepatitis C. For us this is an absolutely medical cannabis campaign. We don't have any other agenda. If we wanted to do a full legalization campaign we would have done a true legalization campaign. This is truly to help sick and dying patients in Arkansas."

Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is the former head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, and others state health officials have said marijuana holds medicinal properties but argue only a refined product, researched and regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration should be legal. Opponents also claim the medical community is firmly behind them.

Denham's response, "We're disappointed that Governor Hutchinson would come out and tell seriously ill patients to wait for the federal government to reschedule cannabis. The federal government, just a few weeks ago denied the rescheduling of cannabis. Sick and dying patients in Arkansas have waited decades to get safe and legal access to medical cannabis. We are very disappointed with the governor's press conference but we have dozens of public health organizations on our side. A recent New England Journal of Medicine poll found that 76 percent of doctors support medical cannabis."

Family Council Director Jerry Cox has argued that a doctor's note, rather than a formal prescription, and the use of dispensaries rather than traditional pharmacies, makes marijuana's use fall outside the scope of medicine.

Denham's response, "We have some common ground here. We would love for the federal government to reschedule cannabis so doctors could actually prescribe it. Since medical cannabis is a schedule one drug in the United States that means the 2o-plus states that have passed medical cannabis laws, they can not technically prescribe it, so it's a recommendation by a doctor. But it's a very similar situation where a doctor sees the patient, determines if they think medical cannabis is a proper treatment option, and then issues them a written recommendation. It's very similar to a prescription."

The governor and Dr. Bledsoe point to the existence of a synthetic THC pill, Marinol, as evidence that marijuana's medicinal properties should be extracted and refined and to argue that the benefits of medical marijuana already exist in a safe form without the ballot measures.

Denham's response, "It's true, there is a pill on the market that has a part of cannabis or marijuana in it. Cabbanis has over 80 different cannabinoids or compounds. Many of these compounds have medical value, like THC, CBN, CBG, THC-A, THC-B. There's multiple compounds in cannabis that studies have shown have medical value. What Marinol has done is isolated and synthesized just one of those compounds, THC. The problem is it doesn't have the balance with the other cannabinoids, that have medical value."

All opponents have said smoking something is not a proper way to administer medicine.

Denham's response, "Smoked cannabis might not be the best way to use it but there are many other ways to use it right now, that's what a lot of patients do in the 25 other states and Washington D.C. that have these laws. You can vaporize cannabis, you can use it as a tincture and put a few drops under your tongue, there are cannabis pills you can get. To say that smoked medicine is not good medicine and that's the only way to use it, that's a bit of an exaggeration. There are many different ways to safely use cannabis."

Denham is an organizer in support of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. KUAR reached out to the sponsor of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, David Couch, for this story but unfortunately the station couldn't fit in the interview before last week's podcast production. We hope to have more thoughts from the Amendment group in coming weeks.