LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Opponents of medical marijuana initiatives in Arkansas launched a TV ad Wednesday claiming competing proposals on the November ballot would lead to drug abuse, while two state law enforcement agencies said they’d need funding increases if the drug is legalized.
Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, a coalition of groups opposed to the medical pot proposals, said it’s spending about $50,000 to air the 30-second spot statewide over the next week. In the ad (posted below), state Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe says there are some compounds in marijuana that could potentially help patients with seizures but contends the proposals go too far.
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“But this is just drug abuse and it’s not medicine,” Bledsoe says in the ad, as the image of several young people smoking pot is shown. “Get the law right and many of us will support it. Until then, don’t buy the big lie.”
Both ballot measures would allow patients with certain medical conditions to buy marijuana from dispensaries, but differ in their restrictions and regulations. For example, one proposal would allow patients to grow their own marijuana if they don’t live near a dispensary. Arkansas voters narrowly rejected medical marijuana four years ago.
Medical pot supporters called the ad deceptive.
“It was very disappointing at the same time that while acknowledging there are medical benefits, they choose to show potheads smoking pot instead of actual patients,” said David Couch, the sponsor of one of medical marijuana proposals. Couch said he hoped to begin airing ads for his proposal before early voting begins Monday.
The head of the Arkansas State Police and the state Crime Lab also spoke out against the proposals Wednesday, warning they’d need additional funding to hire more officers and equipment if medical cannabis becomes legal.
“We will be required to train more drug recognition experts, and in addition we will need to add criminal investigators to assist in this endeavor and also train our criminal investigators to dismantle and disrupt these marijuana grow operations,” State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant said at a news conference with Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and other opponents. Bryant said he planned to offer more details on the additional funding needed at a legislative hearing Thursday with other agency directors.
The groups behind the measures accused opponents of trying to scare voters, saying they didn’t expect medical marijuana to be a drain on law enforcement.
“I would think it would save them some money,” said Melissa Fults, campaign director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, sponsor of the other ballot measure. “They don’t have to arrest as many people.”
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at @ademillo