Ryan Denham says he is optimistic Arkansans will approve a law legalizing medical marijuana, but that his ultimate goal is to see the federal government re-schedule the herb to a lower-level, legal status.
Denham, campaign director with Arkansans for Compassionate Care, was interviewed Thursday during taping of The City Wire Show. He said the group submitted about 144,000 signatures to get the 62,507 valid signatures to put the issue on Arkansas’ November ballot. Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin announced Aug. 22 the initiative had qualified for the ballot.
The group describes itself as a “coalition of concerned physicians, patients, and allies who agree that sick and dying patients should have access to medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.”
The medical marijuana proposal would allow for up to 30 nonprofit dispensaries in Arkansas. Local cities and counties could choose to ban them. If Arkansas approves the measure, it would the only Southern state to do so, but would join 16 other states with some form of medical marijuana law.
Marijuana would only be available to people with a prescription for certain health conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, Hepatitis C, HIV/AIDs, Alzheimer’s disease and several other conditions. The proposal allows for a patient to have up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana without the threat of prosecution.
Denham said during Thursday’s interview that people shouldn’t have to “break the law” to seek relief from pain. He said doctors are allowed to prescribe medicines that contain methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, but they can’t prescribe an organic treatment that can provide better results with fewer or no side effects. He said there are many stories from Arkansans as to how they ran the risk of incarceration to use marijuana when approved medicines failed to work.
The measure has a good chance of gaining voter approval. A Talk Business-Hendrix College Poll taken Thursday, July 19 among 585 likely Arkansas voters found that 47% supported the medicinal marijuana proposal, while 46% said they opposed it. About 7% were undecided. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4%.
Denham said the group has conducted a poll that had similar results, but said the group knows it has to campaign hard to educate Arkansans about the issue.
Other guests on the upcoming The City Wire Show include Steve Cox, economic development director for the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, and Larry Foley, a film producer with the University of Arkansas.
Cox spoke about business growth in the city, and an ongoing survey of around 450 small and large businesses in the city to collect “an overall feel of their impression of the business climate.”
Foley is preparing for an Oct. 19 premiere of “Up Among The Hills,” a documentary about the history and characters of Fayetteville.
THE CITY WIRE SHOW
The City Wire Show, which appears Saturday and Sunday mornings in the two markets, will include a recap of major events, updates and details on ongoing issues, updates on newsmakers and discussion of arts & entertainment action.
The show airs Saturday mornings at 8 .m. on KXNW-TV 34, which is channel 20 for Cox cable customers in Northwest Arkansas and channel 8 for Cox cable customers in the Fort Smith area. The show will air Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. on KFSM-TV 5. The show will also air at 4 p.m., on June 17.
5NEWS Anchor Daren Bobb and The City Wire managing editor Michael Tilley are hosts for the show.