Region 8 doctors come out for and against medical marijuana
November 5, 2012 at 5:37 PM CST - Updated June 28 at 11:51 AM
JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Several Arkansas doctors have announced their support for a ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana.
At a press conference in Little Rock, medical marijuana support group Arkansans for Compassionate Care announced 76 doctors from across Arkansas who signed endorsement statements for Issue 5, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act.
Several doctors from Region 8 signed the statement of statement of support.
The statement reads:"Licensed medical practitioners should not be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill people, and seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patients' medical professionals have told them that such use is likely to be beneficial."
Jonesboro chiropractor Dr. Debra Callahan is one of the doctors on the list.
"I don't think the general population wants a bunch of potheads running around, but I don't think that's the purpose of this bill," she said. "I think the purpose of the bill is to allow the people who have cancer, who have HIV, who have multiple sclerosis, who have some real problems, I think the purpose of the bill is to help them."
Dr. Callahan said voters allowing the growth of a medical marijuana industry in the state could also grow local economies. "When Michigan passed this law a couple of years ago there was a whole industry that grew up around growing marijuana."
UAMS hospitalist Dr. Shane Speights does not support Issue 5.
"I don't know why we want to take a step backwards and circumvent the safety measures we've worked so hard to put in place to make sure that we deliver good, safe medications."
Dr. Speights said safe, FDA regulated versions of the drug already exist. "We have them in two pill forms and there's a third one about to come out on the market in a vaporized form."
Dr. Callahan said she has patients who have prescriptions for the medical marijuana pill."The FDA came up with a law that said you cannot patent a naturally occurring substance. So, what drug companies do is they take an herb or a plant that they know works, and then they do research on it and they change it slightly and then they patent that."
Dr. Callahan said there are many who prefer the natural plant instead of the synthetic pill. "A lot of synthetic substances are carcinogenic and have a lot of side effects, whereas with marijuana there's really basically no bad side effects. You can't get cancer from marijuana," she said. "If a person is worried about the complications of lung disease from smoking too much the medical marijuana act allows people to utilize marijuana different ways like cooking or juicing."
Dr. Speights also said he is especially concerned about one of the provisions in the act concerning the issuing of medical marijuana registry identification cards to minors because no pediatric data on medical marijuana exist.
"Approving this for kids under the age of 18 is in this bill," he said. "That's just completely irresponsible, and in my book unethical."
According to Section 105 of the act, the Arkansas Department of Health "may not issue a Registry Identification Card to a Qualifying Patient who is under 18 years of age unless:
(i) The Qualifying Patient's Physician has explained the potential risks and benefits of the Medical Use of marijuana to the Qualifying Patient and to a parent, guardian or person having legal custody of the Qualifying Patient; and
(ii) A parent, guardian or person having legal custody consents in writing to:
(A) Allow the Qualifying Patient's Medical Use of marijuana;
(B) Serve as one of the Qualifying Patient's Designated Caregivers; and
(C) Control the Acquisition of the marijuana, the dosage and the frequency of the Medical Use of marijuana by the Qualifying Patient."
Dr. Callahan believes the act is strictly regulated, citing examples from the act that prohibit usage on school buses, in schools and in public.
Below is a list of the doctors who signed the statement endorsing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act.