Attorney General Eric Holder singled out Arkansas for praise in speech about changing federal drug sentencing guidelines to reduce prison population.
The attorney general said, “In Texas, investments in drug treatment for nonviolent offenders and changes to parole policies brought about a reduction in the prison population of more than 5,000 inmates last year alone. The same year, similar efforts helped Arkansas reduce its prison population by more than 1,400…Let me be clear: these measures have not compromised public safety.”
Arkansas's efforts to reduce prison population by alternative sentencing and new focus on rehabilitation for low-level drug offenders have not been lauded of late. Problems in the probation and parole system — particularly the freedom of a parolee who'd been failing to report to his parole officer and has now been charged with murder — has just about every aspect of the system under attack. Bail. Parole. Probation. Even the drug sentencing modifications, though they haven't yet been blamed for any murders.
Legislators want to be tough on crime and hold down costs. It's hard to do both, Hardy notes — unless, of course, the state continues to be serious about using less expensive things than prison for low-level offenders. There is this difference between the states and federal prisons. Federal prisons hold a much larger percentage of inmates held strictly on drug crimes, about 50 percent. In Arkansas, about a third of state prison inmates are serving drug-related sentences.
Eric Holder is, of course, just about as popular in Arkansas as his boss from Kenya.
Said the former Drug Enforcement Administration director now practicing law in Arkansas:
“The stage is set for a confrontation of massive proportions,” said Asa Hutchinson, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Hutchinson, who headed the DEA during George W. Bush’s first term, said he sees only two options for the Obama administration, in the likely event that it doesn’t just ignore the new laws: a lawsuit against both states or enforcement of federal drug laws by federal agents.
The most likely federal response, Hutchinson predicted, would be a lawsuit arguing that federal law trumps any state efforts. The administration should “have the courts decide finally that federal law trumps and that the state law violates the federal law,” he said.
Naturally a states rights Republican federalist would desire a massive federal response against activities of which he disapproves. Voter suppression? He'll leave THAT to the states.
Naturally, the government should gear up a massive and expensive action to use the federal law to bust small-time dope smokers. Imagine him as the deranged Volstead Act enforcer in Boardwalk Empire (OK, without the homicidal tendencies).
I'm happy to see Hutchinson continue to espouse reefer madness. Medical marijuana failed in Arkansas by only 30,000 votes or so. With a little cleanup, the proposal should pass in two years, when he might find himself on the Arkansas ballot. Drug crusader Hutchinson would pit his federal supremacy not against small-time recreational users but against small-time sick people desperately seeking help for cancer and other burdens. You go, Asa!
The suit by Medicine Dispensing Systems and Kind Clinics says Cox's statements about use of the machines damaged the company's reputation and were "falsely derogatory." It objected to Cox characterizing the devices as "vending machines that sell marijuana without any prescription to the general public and at convenience stores." This interferes with the company's business and damages it, the lawsuit says. The suit claims defamation and also a trademark violation for using the company's trademark in an altered fashion at a news conference. The lawsuit against Cox and the Family Council Action Committee said:
Strict security of Plaintiffs' product and control over access to medications are key features of the MDS. Defendants' false statements, altering the appearance of Plaintiffs' product, and displaying it at the news conference at the Arkansas State Capitol irreparably harmed Plaintiffs and will continue to harm Plaintiffs unless enjoined by the Court.
Tuesday, Cox spoke at a news conference at the Capitol against the medical marijuana initiative. According to the lawsuit, he had "an exact cardboard replica of the MDS. The replica had the words "Medbox" printed on it, and it was an exact representation of a MDS. The Defendants altered the MDS by pasting a large marijuana leaf to the MDS."
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and also injunctive relief against further statements by Cox, among others, that imply the MDS may be used 24 hours a day or at places other than licensed dispensaries (Cox raised the issue of convenience store availability). The lawsuit also seeks a public apology for false statements.
I've asked for a comment from Family Council. UPDATE:
“A lawsuit has been filed against us by a company in California,” Cox said. “We have no response to the specific allegations in the lawsuit itself. The matter has been referred to our attorney.”
Cox went on to say, “Family Council Action Committee has taken a stand for what’s right for many years. The people
of Arkansas are well aware of that, and most appreciate it. However, not everyone agrees with us. When you operate
in the arena we do, lawsuits can and will be filed against you.
“This is a national issue. People from all over the country are watching to see what Arkansas does. We addressed the
broad issue of marijuana and vending machines.
“This does not change any of the problems with the measure. Issue 5 is still a backdoor effort to legalize marijuana in
"Most"? What's "right?" I guess that's in the eyes of the beholder, Jerr.
The lawsuit outlines the steps by which the system aims to prevent unauthorized use.
A new Talk Business/Hendrix College poll shows support dropping for the initiative to legalize medical use of marijuana with a doctor's approval from a state-regulated dispensary.
The Oct. 18 sounding showed respondents opposed to the measure 54-38, a marked change from 47-46 support in late July.
Official Arkansas, led by law enforcement, has been steadily beating the drum against pain relief for sick people. I did see some new advertising from Arkansans for Compassionate Care last night that effectively made the point for the need for access to marijuana, using a real person (non-threatening, older). Whether such a campaign can turn around a gap as wide as this poll indicates is a good question.
Interesting demographic: People identified as Democrats favored the measure 51-39. Independents likewise favored it 53-37. Republicans opposed it 71-23.
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.
The state of Arkansas continues its taxpayer-funded assault on a voter initiative to legalize use of medical marijuana, with a doctor's approval, for pain relief for specified illnesses. I mentioned yesterday a broadside delivered by the Division of Behavorial Health Services to employees, private contractors and others.
State Drug Director Flan Flener will hold a news conference today to discuss the negative impact of the act and encourage a vote against it. I hope Flener's facts on marijuana are based on better science and research than those mentioned yesterday. Probably not. Reefer Madness still dominates official Arkansas. What war will we fight if not the fight on a drug with proven benefits for sick people and far less damaging consequences than legal substances the state promotes and profits from, be they cigarettes, beer or potato chips.
UPDATE: Pharmacists and cops joined the anti-pain-relief throng, Fox 16's David Goins notes on
Jennifer Gallaher, director of the Arkansas Division of Behavioral Health Services, has distributed a memo to employees with talking points against the medical marijuana initiative. (CORRECTION: A glitch here on the agency's name originally)
The Negative Impact of Legalizing Medical Marijuana
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act would allow the use of “medical” marijuana. The Arkansas Department of Health would sell “medical” marijuana cards. Marijuana would be purchased from dispensaries or patients could grow a maximum of six plants for themselves.
In State Fiscal Year 2012, 2,112 individuals treated by substance abuse providers in Arkansas funded by the Division of Behavioral Health Services cited Marijuana as their primary drug of choice. Of the 2,112 individuals, 419 were under the age of 17, 620 were between the ages of 18 and 24, and 690 were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Among youths age 12 to 17, marijuana usage rates are higher in states with “medical” marijuana laws (8.6 percent) compared with those without such laws (6.9 percent). Additionally, “medical” marijuana states are at the top of the list in terms of drug addiction and abuse among 12-17 year olds.
Residents of states with “medical” marijuana have marijuana abuse/dependence rates almost twice as high than states without such laws.
More than two-thirds of treatment admissions involving those under the age of 18 cite marijuana as their primary substance of abuse, more than three times the rate for alcohol and more than twice for all other drugs combined.
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.
Marijuana is not approved by the FDA for medicinal purposes and no major medical association has come out in favor of smoked marijuana for widespread medical use.
For more information on the negative impacts of legalizing “medical marijuana”, call the Division of Behavioral Health Services at 501-686-9164.
I got a tip about the memo from a correspondent who questioned the propriety of a state agency head lobbying on a ballot isssue. Amy Webb of the Department of Human Services, responded:
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.
A recipient of the email objected further that a cover letter with the memo urged that it be shared with friends.
First came the Family Council's customarily dishonest, mean-spirited and blatantly racist TV ad against the amendment.
The Arkansas Baptist Convention has launched an e-mail campaign, calmer than the Family Council's attack, but also wholly inaccurate on several points.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which is the committee working for passage of the measure, offers a point-by-point rebuttal to the religious groups' opposition. Chris Kell provided the following response to misinformation (if the misinformation was knowing, you'd have to call it a lie — maybe the so-called religious groups didn't fully read the proposal before criticizing). Maybe some of the good Baptists who circulated their group's misinformation should look to the Bible's guidance on bearing false witness and circulate the following corrective:
It's a somewhat calmer recitation of reasons to oppose the initiative than the racially charged TV ad rolled out by the Family Council yesterday with the help of a Little Rock ad agency. It is also more factual. It acknowledges, for example, that approval by a physician is necessary for obtaining medical marijuana for specified illnesses, but argues that this is not the same thing as a prescription for scheduled drugs.
I wouldn't necessarily agree with the Baptist Convention that it's a moral issue, unless you believe prescription pain relievers are a moral issue, too. I'd also argue with the Baptists' dismissal of "intractable, chronic pain" as a justification for a marijuana certificate. The Baptist Convention says this condition cannot be "verified" by a doctor. By that logic, painkillers should be outlawed, too, as treatment for "unverifiable" pain.
Nonetheless, the e-mail is a shape of the campaign that will be waged against Arkansans for Compassionate Care.
The full e-mail follows:
The Family Council is going to take time off from beating up on gay people and restricting women's medical services to work at keeping medical marijuana out of the hands of suffering people in Arkansas.
News release here on the Religious Right political group's opposition to an initiated act to legalize use of marijuana as a medicine.
Lead crusader Jerry Cox's timeless remarks here.
Before long I will have an easy link to their first TV commercial. They'll also be pounding social media and their network of right-wing churches in the fight against pain relief.
Better information here from Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which will be waging the campaign for medical marijuana. The initiated act would allow sale of small amounts of marijuana at up to 30 dispensaries (sale must be approved by local option) for people with specific diagnosed conditions. People living more than 5 miles from a dispensary will be able to grow up to six plants.
Cox condescendingly refers to many "well intended" marijuana backers. He can't do his usual full-throated Army of the Lord fire-and-brimstone act against sinners — as he does when attacking gays' and women's rights — because the benefciary is sick people, many elderly, not bullied gay children or pushy women intent on wresting control of their bodies from people like Cox. It's also an issue on which Arkansans have repeatedly demonstrated warmth in polling. So things could get interesting.
I confess ambivalence. I lean more toward full decriminalization and have some questions about the twilight zone of legalizing trade in a substance the feds deem illegal. But there's nothing like a Family Council pronouncement to firm up my thinking.
UPDATE: Arkansans for Compassionate Care will have Montel Williams at a news conference next week endorsing the measure.
UPDATE II: Plenty of drama in the Family Council's film noir ad, full of guns, menacing black people (a favorite prop in Republican advertising) and a reference to "stoned-out zombies." It's blatantly dishonest. It says no prescriptions will be required, when a written order from a physician is required, a license from the state and a purchase from a legal dispensary. (When are they going after Rush's drug of choice, Oxycontin, I wonder?) Slimy stuff, even by the Family Council's bottom-of-the-barrel standards.
The Arkansas Supreme Court has denied the petition to block a vote on the initiative to allow medical use of marijuana in Arkansas. The decision clears the way for a vote on medical marijuana in Arkansas on Nov. 6.
Here's the opinion. The court said the ballot title was sufficient.
The complaint was brought by the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values and included Jerry Cox, leader of the Arkanass branch of the rightwing fundamentalist Family Council, and Larry Page, longtime leader of the church-backed Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council.
They contended the measure, certified for the ballot by Secretary of State Mark Martin, conflicted with state and federal laws and constitutions.
The court rejected arguments that the ballot title was too long, at 384 words; that it lacked definitions and contained misleading terms; that it had omitted key words and phrases; that it prevented fair understanding of the impact of the act (such as potential for people getting pot for illicit uses). The court held unanimously that it met the required standard of being intelligible, honest and impartial. The court noted that no title is required to discuss the merits or demerits of a question and that it wasn't possible to list every consequence of an initiative. (Might this be a hint at a coming decision on whether a casino amendment says enough about potential impact on existing casinos at Oaklawn and Southland Park?)
The court also upheld the sufficiency of the popular name, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, which opponents claimed was partisan and misleading because there's no such thing as medical marijuana. The court said, though, that the words were familiar, commonly used and understood and presented impartially.
The court said the claim that the act violated law and constitution is directed at the substance of the act, not the popular name and ballot title, and "is therefore not ripe for review." For that to happen, the proposal must become law and a "case in controversy" arise. The court can step in before adoption only when a proposal is "clearly contrary to law." The problems posed by plaintiffs are hypothetical, the court said. The Coalition, it said, bases assertions "on situations that may arise, if the law is passed, not language that is clearly contrary to either the constitutions or state and federal law." Again, I have to wonder about the casino challenge.
The unanimous court decision was written by Justice Karen Baker.
This clears the way for a vote on the proposal Nov. 6. Here's a link to the proposal if you'd like to study up. Polls over the years have shown warmth in Arkansas toward use of marijuana for medicine, but similar sentiments in other states haven't always led to positive outcomes. Gov. Mike Beebe has already told reporters he thinks Arkansas voters won't approve and raised the issue of the cost to the state of regulating dispensaries and those allowed to grow marijuana if they live too far from dispensaries. The marijuana can be prescribed for certain recognized illnesses.
AP's Andrew DeMillo wrote a useful overview several weeks ago.
40/29 reports that Dr. Jimmy Acklin, residency director for the Arkansas Health Education Center in Fort Smith and a resident of Crawford County, has been arrested for growing marijuana.
A reader mentioned this last night, but I think Paul "Marathon Man" Ryan's endorsement of state autonomy on medical marijuana laws is worth a bigger mention.
Ryan says he opposes such laws personally. If you choose to believe him. But he said in Colorado, where marijuana is currently sold for medicinal purposes, that states should have the right to decide for themselves whether to legalize pot for medical purposes.
What do you think the Family Council, the religionist lobby for extreme right-wing Republicans (but I repeat myself), would say about that? Or Secretary of State Mark Martin, who has hinted at philosophical support with the Family Council's lawsuit objecting to his certification of a medical marijuana amendment for Arkansas's November election ballot. The Council has said, among others, that voters aren't fully informed in the proposal about its impact. To all its challenges, Martin has raised no objections, calling them "legal conclusions."
Just when you thought things could only get worse and it's all downhill from here…
Oscillating one's follicles is another time-honored beauty regimen, Olph-. Though most discover a simple version…
Perplexed, you may recall I predicted several times on this blog that the $74 million…
A&E Feature / To-Do List / In Brief / Movie Reviews / Music Reviews / Theater Reviews / A&E News / Art Notes / Graham Gordy / Books / Media / Dining Reviews / Dining Guide / What's Cookin' / Calendar / The Televisionist / Movie Listings / Gallery Listings