Arkansas group supporting medical marijuana seeking commitments
January 03, 2006
Gary Lookadoo, Benton County Daily Record (AR)
Members of a group seeking to legalize the medical use of marijuana by people suffering the severe, chronic pain of cancer or other diseases will soon be making some phone calls all around the state and, in the process, moving toward a decision to be made by the group this year, said Denele Campbell, executive director of Arkansans for Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas, as well as executive director of the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana.
"We’re in the process of making telephone calls to hundreds of supporters across the state to see if we can get a commitment from people to contact their legislators. If people are not going to contact their legislators and ask them to support a bill, then we’re not going to push for a bill. It can’t come from us. It has to come from the people. The primary objective is to see if they’re willing to contact their elected representatives in the state of Arkansas and federally. You know, the federal government could save us all a whole lot of trouble and take some action on this issue," Campbell said.
"We are in the process of doing that. It’s probably going to take us a couple of months, with our team of volunteers, to make all these phone calls, but that’s what we’re working on. What we’re asking people is, No. 1, will you call your legislators? And then, No. 2, will people work in teams in your part of the state to turn out other people and generate phone calls (to lawmakers)?" she said.
Between legislative sessions, lawmakers are studying the issue and whether to try to legalize use of marijuana by patients, Campbell said. A Nov. 17 hearing of the state House and Senate Public Health Committee featured testimony by a physician familiar with California’s medical marijuana law and featured some good questions from lawmakers, she said.
Furthermore, polls suggest that about two-thirds of respondents favor making it legal for people with cancer or other illnesses to use marijuana for pain relief, she said.
Still, while many Arkansans apparently support the idea, getting them to contact their legislators and urge passage of a change in Arkansas law is something else again, Campbell said.
Lawmakers who don’t hear from their constituents won’t support a new law, she said.
The group’s other mission is to educate citizens about the issue, Campbell said.