Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner spoke against medical marijuana at a political luncheon Wednesday, less than two months before voters will decide whether to legalize medical use of the drug in Arkansas.
Two proposals, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment and the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, have been approved for the ballot Nov. 8. Buckner, who leads the state's largest police department, told the Political Animals Club of Little Rock on Wednesday that medical marijuana is a "scam."
"It's a Trojan horse to recreational use of marijuana," he said. "Think of all of the problems that we have in our city and put it through your intelligent mind and ask yourself, 'Will marijuana fix that?' There are medical, intelligent arguments for some people who are able to get some relief from some very egregious pain. But I trust our intelligent medical field to come up with the solutions to address that through other means."
Buckner called the medical marijuana proposal a "hot-button issue." Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and a coalition of five state groups known as Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana have also spoken against legalizing the drug for medical use.
Supporters of the proposals have said marijuana would be a nontoxic, nonaddictive treatment alternative for patients with certain chronic medical conditions.
Arkansans voted against a similar proposal in 2012. The measure was narrowly defeated.
Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay said at the luncheon Wednesday that he also opposes medical marijuana.
"I'm concerned about the availability of marijuana to kids in our community," he said. "I'm not a doctor. And I'm sure there's some justification for the medicinal aspect of marijuana. But as the initiatives are written, I just cannot be supportive of making the availability of marijuana larger than what is currently is."
Medical marijuana wasn't the only topic Buckner discussed Wednesday at the luncheon, a monthly gathering of central Arkansas businessmen, elected officials and politicians at the Pleasant Valley Country Club. The police chief also spoke about violent crime in Little Rock, which occurs at a higher rate than in cities of comparable size.
Buckner, who is black, told the mostly white crowd of about 60 people that the majority of violent crime occurs in Little Rock's minority communities and involves young black men. But, he said, it affects the whole city, "even if you can't see it outside your door."
"It's problem for all of us," he said. "Because it's concentrated in poverty-stricken areas occupied by primarily black and brown [people]. And sometimes when we live in our kind of gated, country club communities, we sometimes are isolated from that mentally, to where we remove ourselves. We can't do that in a community."
Crime in Little Rock fell to the lowest point since 1979 last year, but the department recorded an increase in violent crime. Police classify homicide, rape, robbery and assault as violent crimes. The latest department crime statistics, released Wednesday, show violent crime has decreased 2 percent compared with last year.
"We're very, very encouraged by that," Buckner said.
The police chief also addressed recruiting struggles at his department. The agency is authorized to hire 589 sworn officers, but has hovered around 520 in recent years. In July, Little Rock paid $120,000 for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a nonprofit law enforcement training and policy development organization, to review the department's recruiting practices. Buckner said the results should be released in the next 30 days.
"I thought we had a process that was not yielding enough qualified applicants," he said.
Buckner, who was sworn in as police chief in June 2014, spoke about diversity at the Police Department, as well. The agency has increased efforts to recruit Hispanic officers the past two years and last year named Alice Fulk the first female assistant chief in department history.
Buckner said efforts to increase diversity at the department will continue. The majority of officers are, and historically have been, white men.
"Diversity and discrimination have something in common -- they're both intentional acts," Buckner said. "They don't just happen."
Metro on 09/15/2016
Print Headline: Medical marijuana a 'Trojan horse,' police chief says