LITTLE ROCK — Asa Hutchinson, formerly the nation’s top drug enforcement officer, said Wednesday he will not drop his opposition to patients smoking marijuana for relief unless the medical community does so.
The former congressman who is a Republican candidate for governor said he opposes proposals that would legalize marijuana for medical use in Arkansas because allowing people to smoke the drug would go beyond treatment ordered by a doctor by prescription.
“Historically, I have not been supportive of medical marijuana in that form,” he told reporters after a speech to the executive committee of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.
“We have marinol, we have medical marijuana … which is done by prescription and that’s relief, but it’s done by a doctor’s prescription,” Hutchinson said. “What’s on the ballot now is taking marijuana in a different form, smoking marijuana for relief, and that has not been accepted by the medical community.”
He said he would oppose the initiatives unless the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the medical community decide to recognize medical marijuana as needed beyond the current marinol treatment.
Two marijuana-related ballot proposals have been certified by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and supporters have until next July 7 to try to gather enough signatures to qualify them for the 2014 general election ballot.
Both would authorize patients to buy marijuana at dispensaries under rules established by the state Health Department and use it as long as they have a doctor’s certification saying they suffer from a malady included on a list of conditions that might be helped by marijuana. Neither would require a doctor’s prescription to purchase the drug.
Supporters of the measures have to collect 62,507 valid signatures of registered Arkansas voters to qualify for the 2014 ballot.
Republican Curtis Coleman, who also is seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination, said he supports the ballot initiative process and has concern for Arkansans who can personally benefit from the medical use of marijuana, but is “… also concerned about the unintended consequences of enshrining its medical use into public policy.”
“Should Arkansas voters pass this into law, I will work with the state’s policy and rule makers to protect both concerns,” Coleman said.
Brad Howard, spokesman for Democratic Mike Ross, said that “over the next several months, many issues will try to get on the 2014 ballot, and, like every other Arkansan, Mike Ross will carefully review each measure once it’s certified and placed on the ballot.”
A third GOP candidate, Rep. Debra Hobbs of Rogers, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment Wednesday.
The national lieutenant governor’s meeting was hosted by Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who presented each of the 10 lieutenant governors on the committee with a Red Ryder BB gun made in Rogers.