Advocates of the initiated act to legalize dispensation of marijuana for medical purposes at non-profit centers have fired back at Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s press conference Monday to oppose both medical marijuana measures on the November ballot.
They “fact-check” the claim that marijuana has no proven medical value and fault him for “his attempt to prevent sick and dying Arkansans from having an option to access medical cannabis even when their doctor recommends it. “
The news release, headlined “Issue 7 Sponsors Refute Gov. Hutchinson’s Reefer Madness,” offers these particulars:
Fact: According to a 2013 New England Journal of Medicine survey, 76 percent of physicians support medical cannabis.
Fact: FDA-approved Marinol, a synthetic version of THC—the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is only one of more than 80 compounds found in the whole cannabis plant. Most patients that try Marinol find it expensive, difficult to use and ineffective compared to the benefit they receive from medical cannabis. Marinol was even the primary cause of death in four cases during the past 20 years. Yet, cannabis has never been indicated as a primary cause—ever.
Fact: Arkansas has an opioid prescription problem with 1.16 prescriptions for every Arkansan in the state. The state ranks 8th in the nation for number of prescriptions written per person. Opioid-based medicines are lethally toxic. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 42 people die every day in the U.S. due to opioid use. Recent studies show that medical cannabis lengthens the interval between opioid doses in chronic pain patients and lowers tolerance, meaning that pain management is not only more effective—it’s also safer. This is evidenced most clearly in a 2014 JAMA article which found that states with a medical cannabis laws had a 24.8% lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate.
“It’s reprehensible that the Governor would tell seriously ill patients in Arkansas to wait for the federal government to reschedule cannabis. This could take years. Sick and dying Arkansans have waited long enough. These patients and their families need relief now—just like similar patients have in 25 others states and the District of Columbia. Luckily, voters will have the choice to vote for Issue 7 this November” said Ryan Denham, Deputy Director Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
Additional news conference panelists, including Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe, cited references to the lack of medical benefits and risks of adolescent exposure. Many of those references have long been disproven and may be an attempt to strike undue fear in the minds of Arkansans.
Fact: On September 8, 2016, the CDC released a report stating cannabis use declined among adolescents in states with medicinal cannabis.
There is a mountain of evidence showing that medical cannabis is both safe and effective, which is why 76 percent of our nation’s physicians and dozens of public health organizations support it. Groups like the American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, American Public Health Association and the National Institute of Medicine have all publicly stated that medical cannabis can help sick and dying patients with a variety of medical conditions.
Medical cannabis is far less harmful and poses fewer negative side effects than most prescription drugs—especially painkillers. Sick and dying patients in Arkansas deserve an option to access this medicine without being subjected to an undetermined timeline from our federal government. They need safe and legal access now.
PS: I note this comment on Facebook last night about the news conference:
Janet Riley Cathey: I am an MD who will no longer continue my membership in the Arkansas Medical Society. The AMS says they are against the legislation of Medicine yet they have miserably FAILED to come against any of the bills that legislated medicine when it comes to women’s healthcare! The hypocrisy is unconsciounable.
A RELATED BALLOT NOTE FOR SUPPORTERS OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The Arkansas State Chamber Commerce is contributing hugely to the effort, legal and otherwise, to defeat medical marijuana. It distributed on Twitter the photo I’ve used here. Remember this when you vote on the legislatively referred corporate welfare amendment that would allow state tax money to be pledged to cover loans to private businesses and also legalize payment of tax dollars to chambers of commerce. The chambers use their tax money to pay their lobbyists, who often work against the public interest — such as in fighting pain relief for cancer patients through the proven means of marijuana.