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In LR, Montel Williams backs medical-marijuana act

by Gavin Lesnick | October 18, 2012 at 10:58 a.m. | Updated October 18, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.
TV host Montel Williams speaks in favor of medical marijuana Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, on the state Capitol steps in Little Rock.

— Television talk show host Montel Williams spoke Thursday in Little Rock in support of a ballot measure that would legalize medicinal marijuana.

Williams has multiple and lateral sclerosis and says the drug helps him cope with symptoms that cause "ridiculous neuropathic" pain. He said he has used it daily for more than a decade.

"It's not about me just wanting to utilize cannabis," said Williams, a longtime advocate for legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes who says he tried numerous other treatments and has consulted with experts around the world. "I did this until I couldn't do it anymore."

Williams addressed a small crowd of supporters from the steps of the State Capitol, speaking after representatives from Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a group pushing the ballot measure. Among them were Emily Williams, who said marijuana helped her deal with the pain from symptoms of lymphoma, and Daniel Hankins, who said he wants to be able to try using marijuana for a back injury suffered while serving in Operation Desert Storm.

Speaking in Little Rock Thursday, TV host Montel Williams criticized a Family Council ad opposing the medical marijuana ballot measure, calling it egregiously false and racist.

Williams criticizes TV ad opposing medical marijuana measure

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"The war on drugs has collateral damage on the streets of Arkansas and the streets of America," Williams said. "The collateral damage is Emily, it's Daniel, it's Melissa's son, it's Montel Williams, it's all those other people here who suffer from a malady where all the other drugs you've been given don't work."

Williams also took aim at an Arkansas Family Council ad running on TV against the measure, calling it the "most egregiously false, racist statement you've ever seen in your life."

Family Council President Jerry Cox said afterward that he stands by the ad, which suggests the act would legalize marijuana beyond just medicinal use.

"Of course Mr. Williams would say that," Cox said. "He's against what we're doing. He wants to legalize marijuana across the state of Arkansas. Of course he would accuse our ad of being false. That's what political people do."

At one point, Williams teared up while referring to a blog post that suggested the opponents of the marijuana measure could make a citizen's arrest. Williams seemed to be taking at face value a satirical entry posted Wednesday on the Arkansas Blog.

"This is the first state I have been to doing advocacy on this issue where on a blog someone suggested that one of these clergy members here walk up and perform a citizen's arrest on me," he said. "... Well, you know what? You won. This is first time in about 100 days that I've been in this much pain because I haven't been able to use my medication in the last two days getting here."

The measure will appear on the November ballot under Issue 5.

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