Eye Of The Tiger: Medical Marijuana

Amy Schexnayder, staff writer

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Issue 6, the bill to legalize medical marijuana in Arkansas, was passed in November. It does not specify the form that marijuana should be in, nor the dosage, causing many debates over the new bill. The state has since been figuring out how to properly and safely implement the bill.

Several bills have been proposed in response to Issue 6. One of these bills asked to ban smoking marijuana but was recently shot down by the House of Representatives. Issue 6 originally had fairly loose restrictions, making the new proposed bills necessary to safely implement it. The first proposed bill, House bill 1400, asked to ban the smoking of marijuana and limit ingestion to patches, edibles, creams, etc. The goal was to help prevent side effects from marijuana, specifically the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC causes hallucinations and the feeling of being “high.” The edible forms would not prevent all side effects, but they would cause the THC to be slower acting, therefore causing less hallucinations and “high” feelings at one time. However, edibles tend to have a higher THC content which causes more psychoactive effects.

There have also been many debates over the amount of marijuana that can be sold by the same dispensary. Some people worry that if the amount is limited, the price will increase dramatically, causing people to turn to the streets for marijuana. The marijuana typically found on the streets has more varied and often dangerous levels of THC than that purchased from certified vendors. If the supply is unlimited, the people could not only afford the needed drug but also purchase it from a safe, trusted vendor.

The debates and proposed legislation in response to Issue 6 have been endless. The reality is that marijuana poses a threat in granting access to large amounts of THC, but also great opportunity. Because Issue 6 does not specify the form that marijuana should be in, nor the dosage, there are dangerous opportunities for people to have unnecessary and alarming side effects. Side effects, particularly with long term use, include extreme anxiety, depression, panic, and hallucinations, especially in teens.

The dangerous threat is best demonstrated through statistics from Colorado where medical marijuana was first allowed in 2000, later expanded upon in 2009, and finally fully legalized for recreational use in 2012. There has been a significant increase in recent years in both marijuana related traffic deaths and hospital visits, according to factcheck.org. Marijuana related traffic deaths have increased by 154 percent from 2006-2014 and hospital visits by 77 percent from 2011-2014. Because more people have been given access to marijuana, there are automatically more people who may drive under the influence of weed. This then puts even more people at risk of being injured or hurt simply because more people are under the influence and on the roadways.

One solution to eliminating the danger posed by Issue 6 is to simplify the different drugs within marijuana and create a medical version of it. It would be a drug containing little THC but instead be mostly cannabidiol (CBD). Most patients using marijuana only need CBD, the specific chemical that helps relieve pain. If the drug were more specific to only contain CBD, rather than both CBD and THC, it would be much safer. It could greatly limit pain of cancer patients, help control seizures, or lessen symptoms of schizophrenia.

Overall, Issue 6 poses numerous opportunities which would benefit patients suffering extreme pain, but it poses even more risks that could be dangerous to all citizens. The bill has great potential, but needs to be followed by other bills to make it safely distributable to Arkansans.

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