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Medical marijuana petitions may change states outlook on the drug – by Alexander Mills

Submitted by Sarah DeClerk on November 4, 2013 – 4:48 pmNo Comment

Illustration by Byron Buslig

Did you know the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, which provides national- and state-level data on the use of tobacco, alcohol, illicit drugs and mental health, has found marijuana to be the most-used illicit drug? According to it, more than 8.9 million people in the U.S. use marijuana. Which is interesting, since it is illegal.

Cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana, has a long history of medical and recreational uses. Today, the drug is sometimes used as a medical remedy for pain, nausea and seizures.

Currently, two proposals are attempting to pass the medical use of marijuana in Arkansas legislature.

The drug is mostly sought for because of the “high” sensation people get when smoked.

When smoked, the delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, passes through the lungs and into the bloodstream. It then targets the brain cells called cannabinoid receptors, which are commonly found in the parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration and coordinated movement.

The side effects of marijuana include rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure, muscle relaxation, bloodshot eyes, increased appetite, dizziness, depression, hallucination and paranoia. However, there is not enough clinical research to be definitely certain of the effects of the drug.

Some of the effects have been reported to help patients with certain life-altering illnesses, like that of Charlotte Figi. According to an article at CNN.com, Charlotte Figi is a 6-year old girl who suffered from more than 300 grand mal seizures a month. Her family went from doctor to doctor and only found one medicine that worked: marijuana. A family of marijuana growers was able to create a strand of the drug which was high in THC but low in CBD, a chemical called cannabidiol which makes the drug psychoactive. Before, Charlotte lost the ability to eat, talk and walk, but using marijuana allowed her to quickly regain her mobility and catch up with her peers.

Today marijuana is medically legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia. But is only recreationally legal in two states: Washington and Colorado.

Many states have started to see the use of marijuana, whether recreational or medical, come to ballot – including Arkansas.

In early August, the Arkansas Secretary of State Dustin McDaniel approved the language of the Arkansans for Responsible Medicine-sponsored campaign to legalize marijuana. It specifies the legalization of the medical use of marijuana, but not for allowing people to grow their own. The Arkansas for Compassionate Care campaign may have failed because of this clause.

David Couch, spokesman for Arkansans for Responsible Medicine, said he thinks the Arkansas for Compassionate Care campaign, which holds the ability to grow one’s own marijuana, will not pass is because many citizens believe it will be harder to regulate the use of marijuana.

“There was a poll conducted after the election, and 15 to 20 percent of people who voted against the proposal last time said they would probably vote for it had it not been for the grow your own,” Couch told Arkansas Matters, KARK 4 news, in July.

However not all welcome the idea that marijuana is a savior to those who have certain illnesses like Charlotte.

Jerry Cox of Family Council of Arkansas said he is highly opposed to the idea of medical use of marijuana and marijuana in general.

“It’s not about medicine. It’s about legalizing marijuana for all purposes. Look at Washington and Colorado.” Cox said. “It introduces more drug addiction in our society. If you are for more drug addiction, then you should vote for this measure.”

When asked about the idea that marijuana is not a chemically addictive drug, he questioned why the Drug Enforcement Administration classified it as a Schedule 1 drug.

“It is a mind-altering drug, especially to young children,” Cox said.

He went on to talk about how doctors and pharmacists do not favor the use of marijuana because there are already forms of THC, the chemical which helps, available in pill form.

Couch’s proposal must collect over 62,000 signatures by July 2014 to be able to go to ballot in November 2014. Arkansans for Responsible Medicine will visit the UALR campus to collect signatures and recruit volunteers.

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