Pubdate: Mon, 19 Mar 2001
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (AR)
Copyright: 2001 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.
Contact:  121 East Capitol Avenue, Little Rock, Arkansas, 72201
Author: Amanda Hale - Fayetteville


Since 1996, medical marijuana initiatives have been passed by voters in 
every state where they have appeared on the ballot--Alaska, Arizona, 
California, Maine, Nevada and Oregon, [as well as] Washington, D.C. 
Scientific public opinion polls on the state or national level have shown 
that a majority of voters support making marijuana medically available. 
Twice in the past two years, however, the Arkansas House Public Health, 
Welfare and Labor Committee has killed bills that would have protected the 
seriously ill who use medical marijuana with their doctor's approval from 
arrest. Medical marijuana is seen by many legislators as a dangerous, 
controversial issue, but I have never heard anyone say that they would be 
less likely to support an elected official because the official was trying 
to protect seriously ill people out of compassion.

On Feb. 8, the committee's 20 members heard from four Arkansas residents 
who use medical marijuana in fear of arrest and imprisonment. Sixteen of 
the members, however, were unswayed by the testimony. I hope the citizens 
of Arkansas are not so deaf to the patients our marijuana laws are harming 
most. Next year, let's enact a law to protect these patients, either 
through the Legislature or, if we must, at the ballot box through a voter 
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