A campaign led by leaders in politics, faith and medicine in the state urges people not to sign two petitions currently circulating in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. Members of the “Just Don’t Sign” campaign held a press conference at the state Capitol Thursday.
Republican Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, urged supporters gathered at the State Capitol not to sign either of the two petitions currently circulating to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot. Sen. Bledsoe said legalizing the drug’s recreational use would have adverse effects on the state.
“Putting the legislation of a gateway drug without the citizens of Arkansas knowing that the drug has changed since the 1970s and how destructive it is, especially to our young people is irresponsible and very poor public policy,” Sen. Bledsoe said.
Sen. Bledsoe also said “millions of dollars” will be used to sway Arkansans’ opinions in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana. However, Melissa Fults, who authored one of the two initiatives, says the push toward legalization is largely local and patient-driven.
“I wish we had all of these millions they say we have and I wish I made all of this money they say we made off of it. I’ve made not one penny in nine years. We are grassroots. We have fought for patients and we are still fighting for patients,” Fults said.
State Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe said research conclusively says marijuana is detrimental to brain development in people under 25 years of age.
“I’ve talked to people who are politically on the other side, but who are researchers and clinicians who have looked at this research and they agree with absolutely everything I’ve said. What they say is that the political gains are more important than the healthcare risk. And I just don’t believe that,” Dr. Bledsoe said.
Dr. Bledsoe says people often do not fully understand the ramifications of ballot issues before voting to approve them, as he says would be the case should recreational marijuana be legalized in Arkansas. Fults says legalization would boost accountability and safety for those who choose to use marijuana.
“I don’t want children using anything. I don’t want them using alcohol. I don’t want them using cigarettes. But the way to get the black market, well never eliminate the black market, but to reduce the black market is to bring it out of the dark, to legalize it, to have it sold in dispensaries, to have people be able to legally grow it in a closed locked facility where people can’t get to it,” Fults said.
Arkansas voters first legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Since then, over 35-thousand people have received licenses to use the drug. Both petitions for legalizing recreational marijuana must receive just under 90-thousand signatures to be placed on the November ballot.