Friday, October 19, 2012

UPDATE: Objection to state involvement in medical marijuana

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 10:43 AM

Dee Blakley at the Disability Rights Center sends a link to their blog post on the intervention of the state's chief of the Behavorial Health Services Division against the ballot initiative on medical marijuana.

They were "gob-smacked," Blakley tells me. The post criticizes Gallaher, as others have, for providing no backing for assertions she makes about the dangers of marijuana.

UPDATE: Kate Luck, a communications specialist with the Department of Human Services, writes asking that we link to the full document Jennifer Gallaher, chief of the Arkansas Behavorial Health Services Division, put out. It's criticized below for not including footnotes. The full document, which we excerpted last week, does include footnotes.

UPDATE II: Chris Kell, who's working for the marijuana initiative, thinks the state law doesn't allow state employee politicking. This isn't a partisan election, so his citation of that prohibition wouldn't seem to apply. Does it apply to any election, however, as he suggests? I'm not at a place I can check but I'll share his letter.

We are disappointed that Flan Flener and Jennifer Gallaher are using their time as state employees to continue the spread of Jerry Cox’s propaganda. But aside from our disappointment they are in clear violation of Arkansas code. Arkansas Code Annotated 20-76-207 clearly states that in subchapter (a)(1):

“No officer or employee of the appropriate division of the Department of Human Service or of a county office shall use his or her official authority to influence op permit the use of the program administered by the division or the county offices for the purpose of interfering with an election affecting the results thereof or for any political purpose.”

Subchapter (a)(2) states:

“No officer or employee shall devote his or her office hours, or efforts during office hours, towards any partisan political activity, no shall any activity be conducted upon the premises of the employee or officer’s agency, commission or board.”

It is one thing for them to take part in the political process on their own terms, but to use their office resources and time to coerce other employees to vote in their own misguided ways illegal.
Best regards,
Chris Kell

We were quite taken aback by revelations in Max Brantley's blog about a memo from Jennifer Gallaher, the Director of the DHS Division of Behavioral Health (DBH), sent to her employees, which appears to urge them to vote against the proposed initiated act to "Establish the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act."

It further concerns us that Ms. Gallaher's parent agency, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, appears to support her attempt to influence votes.

From Max's blog post, quoting the response of Amy Webb, DHS spokeswoman:

Jennifer Gallaher is the director of the division of behavioral health service, which includes substance abuse prevention and treatment. Both she and her employees have been asked by providers and others about their stance on medical marijuana. Mrs. Gallaher's office gathered factual information on the issue and shared it with her staff, which is absolutely appropriate given what that division does.

In order for Ms. Gallaher's memo to have been factual and solely educational in nature - and not a lobbying effort - she would first have to stay on point.

The proposed initiated act is not about de-criminalizing recreational use of marijuana, or any other drug.

But please, don't take our word for it. You can read the full text of the proposed initiated act by clicking here.

Quoting Ms. Gallaher, "...Marijuana is addictive in nature and states with “medical” marijuana have an increased level of marijuana abuse. Drug abuse and addiction are positively related to increased criminal justice system involvement. Therefore, “medical” marijuana would lead to a flux in the criminal justice system.

"Studies have consistently shown a very strong association between chronic marijuana use and mental illness -especially schizophrenia and psychosis, but also including increased rates of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts."

Studies? What studies? Again, a memo solely intended to educate, not lobby, should have been full of footnotes and links (if the studies were published in electronic form and available on the web), so DBH staff could be truly educated.

Our own internet searches produced a mere smattering of scientific studies on the use of medical marijuana. A New York Times article published on January 18, 2010, suggests that the DEA is blocking legitimate scientific and clinical studies of the use of medical marijuana.

We did find this February 18, 2010 article on WebMD, which cited some results of five studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals on ther topic.

And then, there was this 288 page book, published in 1999, which appears to be quite well researched.

Of course, the proposed initiated act is of interest to DRC in that virtually every individual in Arkansas who would derive benefit from the prescribed and controlled use of medical marijuana is a person with a disability.

But we're not going to presume tell you how to vote on this - or any other - issue or person on your ballot.

And we hope your employer won't try to either.

Because it's your vote.

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