Arkansas Baptists oppose medical pot

Messengers to the recent Arkansas Baptist State Convention termed medical marijuana an “important moral issue” and opposed efforts to legalize it.

By Bob Allen

Arkansas Baptists urged voters to oppose two medical marijuana law proposals that supporters are trying to get on the state’s general election ballot in Nov. 2014 with a statement calling the idea “poor policy” that is “based on bad science” that says smoking pot is a sound medical practice.

“The proposed medical marijuana laws are really about legalizing marijuana for recreational use and not about compassionate health care for suffering Arkansans,” according to a resolution adopted at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention annual meeting held Oct. 29-30 in Rogers, Ark.

marijuanaplantThe resolution repeats arguments in an e-mail sent out by convention leaders in 2012 opposing efforts to make Arkansas the first southern state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care, a group hoping to collect 62,507 signatures needed to put the "Arkansas Medical Cannibis Act” act on the 2014 ballot, claims that medical cannabis — used to relieve pain and nausea associated with chronic illness and harsh medical treatments like chemotherapy — has been proven safe and effective in both peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials.

Arkansas Baptists, meanwhile, termed efforts to legalize medical marijuana as “an important moral issue” and urged churches in bulletin inserts and sermons to oppose it.

In the resolution, Arkansas Baptists “strongly encourage voters to reject the notion that the largely unsupervised cultivation, marketing, distribution and smoking of marijuana is compassionate and sound medical practice.”

It describes the proposed medical marijuana laws as “clandestine attempts to take the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas” and urges voters “to refuse to sign petitions to qualify these measures for the ballot, and to soundly reject all of them at the ballot box in the November 2014 general election.”

So far 20 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana. The federal government classifies the drug as a controlled substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.

Supporters say modern research suggests that cannabis is a valuable aid in a wide range of treatments including pain relief, nausea and glaucoma. Opponents say it is a dangerous drug and that increased use and availability is detrimental to youth, public health and safety.

Arkansas Baptists said the proposed initiatives constitute a “lifetime pass to smoke marijuana” and that “almost anyone” will be able to qualify as a permitted patient.

The resolution argues that “masking pain or other symptoms does not necessarily make an illicit drug an appropriate medicine” and “there are safer and more efficacious ways other than smoking marijuana to deliver any beneficial components of marijuana.”