Committee kills legislation to expand conditions for medical marijuana

The Arkansas House Rules Committee killed legislation Wednesday to expand the list of medical conditions for which medical marijuana may be prescribed. The action came in the face of strong opposition from Gov. Asa Hutchinson.Arkansas Times says Little Rock's KARK reports after Rep. Doug House presented his bill, no motion was made for a do-pass recommendation. House said later that effectively killed the bill. The Rules Committee is appointed by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, so the unanimous rejection can be viewed as reflective of his wishes as well.

The bill added some 40 conditions to the existing list for marijuana use.

In addition to Hutchinson's opposition, his Health Department director, Nathaniel Smith, and Surgeon General Gregory Bledsoe testified against the bill. Some dozen people testified in favor.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas Department of Health has sent out a "Public Health Advisory." The agency in charge of issuing medical marijuana cards says Arkansans should know about the "risks of harm associated with use of products derived from Cannabis, including marijuana and hemp, that claim to benefit health." State Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe and state Drug Director Kirk Lane are "partnering" with ADH to issue the warning.

Here is the letter from the Arkansas Department of Health:

Little Rock, Ark. – The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is issuing a public health advisory to warn Arkansans about the risks of harm associated with use of products derived from Cannabis, including marijuana and hemp, that claim to benefit health. ADH is partnering with Arkansas Surgeon General Bledsoe and Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane in urging Arkansans to be aware of the risks associated with these products.

To see the advisory, go to Among the risks cited in the new ADH Public Health and Safety Advisory are:

• Marijuana is addictive. Approximately one in 11 adults who use marijuana will become addicted, and the risk of addiction is greater among youth.

• Marijuana now available is more potent with higher levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the primary psychoactive substance in Cannabis than marijuana available in previous decades. The long-term health or developmental consequences of exposure to these high concentrations of THC are unknown.

• Marijuana use is associated with adverse health outcomes including development of psychoses like schizophrenia and increased risk of motor vehicle crashes.
Marijuana is particularly harmful to a developing child. Smoking marijuana during pregnancy is associated with being born at low birth weight, a risk factor for death in the child’s first year of life.

• There are a limited number of conditions where there is substantial or conclusive evidence for using Cannabis-derived products as medication, but outside of these conditions, there is not sufficient evidence to show that any form of Cannabis, including marijuana or hemp, is safe and effective as medication.

• Due to a lack of regulations on products containing cannabidiol (CBD), consumers cannot be certain what they will receive if purchasing a product purported to contain CBD.
Marijuana impairs judgment and can lead to actions that result in injury or death.

Substance abuse is a treatable and preventable disease. Contact the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP for treatment referral and information services for a substance use disorder. Call 911 if someone is experiencing an overdose emergency.

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