RIVER VALLEY and OZARK AREA Robert Reed of Van Buren County has a clear image in mind when he talks about proposing a medical cannabis initiative, and he said it isn’t one of a long-haired hippy smoking a blunt.
“We are trying to get across the vision of a veteran with a vaporizer trying to relieve pain,” Reed said. “We don’t want a whole state of pot smokers. We have got to get over that paradox.”
Reed himself is a disabled veteran, and with family members suffering from cancer, he strongly believes in controlled medical cannabis. He and a group of about 10 to 12 others are working on language for a proposal to state Sen. Randy Laverty, D-Jasper, who has agreed to work with the group on proposing legislation to the Arkansas General Assembly.
Reed is familiar with thehistory of attempted cannabis legislation in the state.
“There has been some referendum to get signatures. Those have all failed,” Reed said. “But we have a better shot of getting this done than ever before.”
Reed said passing legislation will be a matter of educating the public.
With that goal in mind, Reed created the Facebook page called “Arkansas for Medical Cannabis” in order to promote the initiative.
The page has 1,454 fans and lots of activity and discussion so far.
Members are able to discusstopics on various forums, including “What do you like or dislike about your state’s medical cannabis laws?” which aims to generate feedback from those living in states where medical cannabis is legal. Other forum topics include “future efforts,” “political response” and “neuropathic pain.” The language of the proposed bill is also available on the site, Reed said.
“It looks totally different from other states,” he said. “We are limiting government and allowing the doctor and thepatient to decide.”
For the time being, Reed said, they are asking interested individuals to visit the Facebook page and contact their local representatives at the state and local level to determine their level of support for medical cannabis.
“We want to find out before November if they are going to support the citizens of Arkansas or if they’re not,” Reed said.
A group of about 10 to 12 residents from Clinton and Fairfield Bay also meet regularly to discuss the issue.
Charles, a Van Buren County resident who asked that his last name be withheld, is one of the regular group members. A transplant from the East Coast, Charles was happy to join up with the group on the issue.
“I consider myself an outsider coming in because I’m not born and raised here,” he said. “People say everything is fine - but not everything is fine. I see cases within the past two years thatmost of the people that get arrested for growing [cannabis] are people over 60 years old.”
Charles said he wants cannabis to be legally available to those who need it for medical reasons only.
“Why are we locking up sick people for seeking help?” he asked.
Charles and Reed will continue working diligently with their group on the issue.
If legislation doesn’t reach the floor of the Arkansas General Assembly, Reed said, he will keep trying.
“If ours doesn’t pass, we’ll join forces with somebody else or try a different tactic,” Reed said. “It’s too important to the people of Arkansas who need [medical marijuana] and can’t get it.” - czilk@ arkansasonline.com
River Valley Ozark, Pages 61 on 06/03/2010
Print Headline: medical marijuana