Earlier this week in Little Rock, members of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a group devoted to legalization of medical marijuana, scored a victory when the group submitted 65,000-plus signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. This means in November you will likely have the chance to vote whether to allow medical marijuana to be prescribed by physicians for those suffering for qualifying illnesses or for the dying.
This subject is of historic interest in Eureka Springs. In 2006, 598 Eurekans voted for and 345 voted against making possession of marijuana and paraphernalia a low priority for law enforcement, passing the ordinance by a healthy 63.41 percent. That ballot initiative lacked much in the way of teeth but was considered a way of showing the community's intent toward the subject matter.
In a few months, all Arkansans then may get a similar chance to make a statement on how they feel about medical use of marijuana.
It may ultimately only be that -- an expression of our mood or opinion. The Feds have made clear through their hot-and-cold attitude toward medical dispensaries out west in California that we can't count on their support -- or even their blind eye -- if a state does make medical pot legal.
For those who have made up their minds one way or the other, the proposed law has little to offer, perhaps. However, the Cannabis plant has a long history of use as medicine, with historical evidence dating back to 2737 BC. The medical benefits of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) have been scientifically proven as highly effective in treating everything from glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, brain cancer, and opioid dependence.
We're just sayin'.
According to Ryan Denham, campaign director for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group nearly tripled the required number of signatures to get the initiative on the ballot this fall. "There may be challenges ahead, but we are confident," he said. "We had several people working full time for three or four days verifying all the signatures before we submitted them."
He mentioned that in addition to the various physical ailments treatable with medical marijuana under the proposed law, Post Traumatic Stress Order also falls into the category of treatable illnesses. "That is important because of the number of veterans coming back from combat with PTSD-related problems," Denham said. "And numerous VA hospitals in states that allow medical marijuana are relaxing their rules when it comes to treatment of vets, which is a good thing."
Eureka Springs has a long and checkered history with marijuana, with a larger-than-normal contingent of citizenry well aware of its medicinal benefits. But as a wise man who should know once said, here in the pages of the Citizen, "Marijuana use is accepted by our society with a nod and a wink, presidents and senators have used it and comedians often make reference to their partaking. It's all kind of a joke -- until the laws are enforced. Then lives are ruined."
To put it another way, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who want to tell everybody else what to do and those who want to be left the hell alone. Eureka has some of the former but a lot of the latter.
Some bad laws are harder to repeal than others, and legal medical use of marijuana has faced an uphill battle for most of a century, not because of its horrible medical side effects -- it doesn't have any, study after study has shown -- but because of long, long-ago attacks on its use as industrial hemp by powerful forces in the timber and plastics industry, both of which rightly considered hemp a dangerous competitor for their products.
We are living in a rare time in the history of legalization of medical marijuana, and it behooves us all to make an extra effort to get to the polls in November and bring this initiative forward into the light of everyday reality.
If you don't believe in its use, don't use it. But don't stand in its way for people who could use it to lessen their suffering.