August 2, 2017 Edition

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Joyce Rose (from left) and John Daughhetee visit with Robert Brech, general counsel for the Arkansas Department of Health, following a town hall meeting hosted by the Lawrence County Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Coalition. The meeting covered several topics, with the main focus being medical marijuana.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Medical marijuana main
topic at ATOD meeting

Gretchen Hunt
Editor

The Lawrence County ATOD (Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs) Coalition hosted a town hall meeting on Thursday evening at Black Rock.

Several topics were discussed, but the topic that found its way to the forefront was the recent legalization of medical marijuana.

Robert Brech, general counsel with the Arkansas Department of Health, shared some basic information about how the law will be implemented.

Because marijuana is still an illegal substance by federal standards, doctors cannot prescribe marijuana, but they can certify patients as having one of 18 conditions that qualify.

The Arkansas law sets a limit of two and a half ounces every two weeks. Doctors do not set an amount the patients should use, as it is not a prescription, but they cannot get more than the limit allowed by law.

Some concerns were discussed regarding the fact that doctors will not be privy to how much medical marijuana their patients are obtaining.

The Arkansas Health Department has been tasked with tracking all medical marijuana in the state.

"From seed to sale, it all has to be accounted for," Brech said.

Some factors will impact people in their ability to purchase medical marijuana. Only Arkansas residents can purchase from an Arkansas dispensary, so an Arkansas photo ID or driver's license will be required.

In addition, Brech told attendees at the town hall meeting, that obtaining a medical marijuana card will void a resident's right to own a gun.

"You cannot possess a firearm or ammo," he said. "If you go to purchase a gun, question 11. e. asks if you use marijuana, and it states that it doesn't matter what laws your state has passed regarding medical marijuana. Lying on the form is a felony."

Brech said gun dealers have been informed by the ATF that because marijuana is illegal federally, Arkansans will be considered unlawful users regardless of state law and an individual having a medical marijuana card should be denied a firearm.

One concern expressed from the drug prevention side was the risk that medical marijuana will be passed on to children. Other concerns discussed were the need for education in schools, especially regarding edibles, and the need for medical marijuana to be stored securely, just as prescription drugs need to be stored where children cannot get to them.

Alison Johnson, project coordinator with the coalition, shared information about the "lock up" program and showed some prescription drug combination lock containers that can be purchased.

She said the coalition plans to help educate teachers, administrators and staff at local schools about things to be aware of regarding medical marijuana, along with other education efforts in the schools.

"Most of the schools have drug-free clubs, and we provide support for them, as well," Johnson said.

More information on the containers and the coalition's efforts can be obtained by calling 870-878-4022 or emailing alisonoglesby@yahoo.com.

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