LITTLE ROCK — Opponents of a proposed initiated act that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Arkansas said Thursday they plan a grass roots campaign to fight the measure but will also have some advertising on television.
Jerry Cox, executive director of the Family Council Action Committee, said the group has already produced a TV ad that will begin airing Monday. The ad cost about $4,000 and the number of ads that will run between now and the Nov. 6 general election will be determined by the amount of money the committee can raise, he said.
"We also have big plans for advertising on Facebook and spreading the word online," Cox said, adding that flyers and information will be provided to churches and community groups. "People need to know the truth about this measure: It’s written so broadly that almost anyone can qualify to use marijuana."
Meanwhile, supporters of the measure announced at television ad of their own and said they would bring in TV celebrity Montel Williams to help promote their campaign.
The Arkansas Supreme Court last month rejected a challenge to the challenge to the proposal, clearing the way for voters to decide the issue.
The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, an alliance of Christian conservative groups, had argued that the proposal, Issue 5 on the ballot, did not adequately define the proposal and that the proposed act would conflict with state and federal laws.
Cox said Thursday many Arkansans do not understand the far-reaching nature of the measure.
"I’ve heard folks argue marijuana should be treated like any other drug. That’s not what Issue 5 does. Issue 5 takes marijuana out of the hands of pharmacists and health care professionals who have spent their lives studying medical science."
Cox also said the American Glaucoma Society has said marijuana is not a treatment for glaucoma and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society has said the research is insufficient and the side-effects too severe to approve it for M.S.
Under the initiated act, up to 30 medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed in the state, but cities and counties would have the option of banning them. The marijuana would only be available to people with prescriptions for certain health conditions, including chronic pain, glaucoma, hepatitis C and those who are terminally ill.
The proposal would allow limited cultivation of marijuana by a patient, or the patient’s designated caregiver, if the patient lives more than five miles from a dispensary.
Chris Kell, campaign strategist for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said Thursday he wasn’t surprised that opponents of the proposal would launch a campaign against Ballot 5.
Kell also said that TV ads for the proposal are to begin Oct. 18, the same day that Williams, a day-time Emmy award winner, is scheduled to be in Little Rock to promote the measure. Kell said final details of Williams’ visit have not been completed.
Williams, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and uses marijuana to ease the pain, owns a medical marijuana dispensary in California and has endorsed several state campaigns supporting medical marijuana laws.