Who Is Funding the Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure in Arkansas?
Those who oppose marijuana for various reasons have usually have plenty of money from big corporations who would like to see marijuana prohibition continue. So those who favor marijuana law reform need a lot of cash as well.
Take the ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas this fall, for example.
"It's been a full on campaign for a little over a year now," says Chris Kell, spokesperson for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a non-profit campaign instrumental in putting the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act on the ballot.
"We've raised a lot of money from Arkansans [and] from very generous support financially from Marijuana Policy Project," says Kell.
Over $250,000, to be more exact, is what MPP has spent on medical cannabis in Arkansas.
"We are entirely a member supported organization. We have over 50,000 dues paying members and basically when we go into these campaigns, we like to focus on whatever we can do to get the issue in front of the voters. In this case, paying for petition gatherers and public education," says Morgan Fox with MPP.
The measure, Kell says, will help thousands of sick Arkansans receive the compassionate care they need.
"This law is actually 8,000 words long for that very reason, so that this is not a gateway to recreational drugs. This is truly about compassionate care and people that could really benefit from this medicinal marijuana," says Kell.
If medical marijuana is going to finally some to the “Bible Belt,” one state is going to have to be the first to do it. Whether or not the first is Arkansas remains to be seen, and is dependent on advocates in the state and their effectiveness.
And of course it depends on the money available to combat the lies of medical marijuana opponents.
The Risks of Running a Medical Marijuana Business
The medical marijuana business is not an easy one to get into and to stay in, even though 17 states and Washington D.C. now have MMJ programs.
Attacks come from all angles; from state legislators who don’t like medical marijuana to groups that say MMJ attracts a bad crowd to the massive federal crackdown that utilizes several federal agencies like the DEA and the IRS.
Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, says that there are over 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries in California, more than 500 in Colorado, and "an untold number" of businesses that benefit from the industry, including packagers, software businesses and accountants.
Many of these business owners, Smith said, are "driven by a sense of compassion and desire to help people in need. They could be doing other things that are far less risky frankly and more lucrative, but they choose to help patients."
Dale Sky Jones, the executive chancellor of Oaksterdam University, an Oakland, California-based school offering training for the cannabis industry, said getting into the medical marijuana business requires "guts or insanity." In April 2012, the university experienced the ultimate risk for medical marijuana businesses: a DEA raid. "A school teaching about a plant that has never killed anyone was raided by over 100 federal law enforcement officers," Jones said of the event.
"Regardless of individual state laws, as far as marijuana facilities, growing and distributing marijuana is illegal under federal law," said Michael Rothermund, a DEA spokesman. "If you're in a business and selling marijuana, you run the risk of being raided or investigated federally."
But Jones believes the raids are part of a bigger message. "They have specifically gone after the oldest and the best," Jones said. "There are a lot of illegal growers running around -- why are you cutting down reputable groups? Because we're the easy targets. If you go after the most respected players, not only are you undercutting the financial practices of the industry, you're also striking fear in the hearts of people who want to do it well. There's a psychological war in addition to a multi-front attack."
While the DEA raids tend to get the most spotlight, many more marijuana businesses have been shut down quietly. According to Smith, the federal government -- mostly through asset forfeiture threats to landlords -- closed over 400 medical marijuana facilities in California and 57 in Colorado in the last year.
And the risks don’t look like they will be lessening anytime soon.
Massachusetts Voters Firmly Support Medical Marijuana Legalization
The poll from Public Policy Polling surveyed 1,115 likely MA voters and found that 58% supported the medical marijuana measure, while only 27% oppose it.
Specifically, the poll question was: "Question 3 would eliminate state criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marijuana by qualifying patients. If the election was today, would you vote yes or no on Question 3?"
A 31 –point spread is a pretty formidable gap, no matter what the issue is.
These new results show increasing support for the measure; according to earlier PPP polls, in June, 57% of respondents were in favor and 33% opposed; in March, 53 percent favored the measure and 35 percent were opposed.
If the measure is passed by voters, it would protect patients and healthcare providers from punishment for medical use of marijuana. Cannabis would be available to patients suffering from a list of qualifying conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, ALS, Crohn's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, as long as they have a written recommendation from a doctor. The marijuana would be available at nonprofit dispensaries registered with and overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the law would allow up to 35 such dispensaries in the state, with at least one in each county and no more than five in any one county. The DPH could also allow individuals to register to grow pot for personal medical use if they show a hardship that prevents them from accessing a dispensary.
Unless something goes haywire, it looks like MA will join the list of states with legal protections for medical marijuana patients.
Arkansas Next Stop for Medical Marijuana Backers
Delicious Medicated Snickerdoodles
Medical Marijuana Advocates See Momentum on Their Side
States like Maine are a good example. Still under the federal radar, they are able to evolve their medical marijuana programs to meet patient needs. Advocates gathered in Maine this weekend to celebrate medical marijuana and the momentum in the movement.
"It's such a big change in just the past few years even, seeing the wide mix of people openly talking about this and not being afraid of a plant, the communication; more and more people are growing and seeing the actual therapeutic benefits," said Hillary Lister, an advocate for medical marijuana use through Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, a trade association.
Jill Stein, who is a Green Party Independent presidential candidate, was one of the speakers at CannaFest, and she sees stereotypes of cannabis as a substance that could harm someone. Endorsing outright legalization, Stein said these stereotypes aren't based on facts.
"As a medical doctor and a public health advocate, marijuana, cannabis is a substance which is dangerous because it's illegal. It's not illegal because it's dangerous," Stein said.
Lister said she senses a growing awareness of the healing effects of cannabis for certain patients.
"I think more and more people are having bad experiences with all the overprescribed pharmaceuticals. There's a lot of people who were really opposed to cannabis even a year or so ago who are finding it really does help," she said.
In the end the federal government can only do so much to combat medical marijuana. Most people support it and realize that everyone should have the choice of cannabis as a medicine as opposed to some dangerous and addictive pharmaceutical.
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