Family Council Action Committee announced Tuesday that its office is working with State Senators Jeremy Hutchinson and Johnny Key, who are seeking an opinion from Attorney General McDaniel on whether or not the proposed Issue 5 would open Arkansas up to marijuana vending machines.
Click here to read the letter the senators sent to McDaniel.
"Marijuana is dispensed through vending machines in California," said Family Council Action Committee President Jerry Cox. "It's twenty-four hours a day at some locations. Some people are trying to get Connecticut to permit these machines under its marijuana program. It's the future of the 'medical' marijuana industry. They're basically just high-tech snack machines that sell marijuana and marijuana-infused food instead of potato chips. I really don't think there's anything in Issue 5 that would prohibit them in Arkansas. Hopefully Attorney General McDaniel's office can
shed some light on how widespread vending machines might become if Issue 5 passes next week."
Cox said he is pretty sure there is nothing in Issue 5 that would prevent vending machines at dispensaries, but wonders if the act adequately limits where vending machines may be located. "Can a marijuana dispensary put a vending machine offsite somewhere? Can a dispensary in Magnolia or Jonesboro contract to put a vending machine at a convenience store across town? Can a dispensary put a vending machine out front for people to use in the middle of the night, when the dispensary is closed? Those are some of my questions."
Cox said vending machines are an aspect of medical marijuana many people are not aware of. "They're a part of the marijuana industry that's growing quickly, but they seem to catch people off guard. I think when they hear the term 'medical marijuana,' a lot of folks still picture a doctor writing a prescription that a person picks up at a pharmacy. They don't imagine that Issue 5 completely bypasses pharmacies altogether, and they sure don't imagine people buying marijuana out of vending machines. It sounds so far-fetched it's almost laughable, but it's actually happening."
Cox said the prospect of marijuana vending machines coming to Arkansas ought to give voters pause. "We don't sell beer out of vending machines. We don't sell cigarettes out of vending machines. I don't know why anyone would be comfortable selling marijuana out of vending machines."
Meanwhile, the group supporting medical marijuana in the Natural State, Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC), was quick to respond to the concerns.
"That's simply not true, medical marijuana is only allowed to be dispensed in one of 30 licensed, non-profit dispensaries" said David Couch, legal counsel for ACC. "This would not be allowed in Arkansas, unless it was approved by the Arkansas Department of Health."
ACC explains that in California, vending machines add another level of security--helping to ensure that only patients get the medicine, and works like this:
- Vending machines are located only in dispensaries. After obtaining a medical marijuana card, a patient must register with the owner of the vending machine, who will issue a security-coded magnetic card--similar to a bank card--that is used only on that vending machine.
- When a patient purchases medical marijuana from a vending machine, she'll need to swipe her card, enter her pin number and scan her thumbprint before completing her purchase.
- Finally, the entire transaction is recorded on camera.
Today, ACC also announced that a dozen clerical leaders from across the state and from a broad range of denominations have endorsed the measure. The religious coalition was announced at a news conference in Fayetteville, featuring medical professionals and Emily Williams, who used medical marijuana to cope with the side effects of chemotherapy.
"I am proud to be among the faith leaders who have endorsed the use of medical marijuana by seriously ill patients," said Reverend Howard Gordon, Minister Emeritus at the First Presbyterian Church in Little Rock. "We are compassionate people by nature and Issue 5, at its core, is about compassion. Arkansans must look beyond the scare tactics used by opponents of the measure and appreciate that there are less fortunate members of society who truly need marijuana to alleviate their suffering. One can be opposed to the use of marijuana generally, while accepting that its use by patients, in accordance with a doctor's recommendation, is acceptable. I know I do. And I hope the voters of this state will demonstrate their own sense of compassion when they vote."
The endorsing faith leaders listed below signed statements of support containing the following language:
As faith leaders, our position on medical marijuana is driven by compassion. Seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patients' medical professionals have told them that such use is likely to be beneficial.
- Holly Patton, Disciple of Christ, Little Rock
- Kendal Land, Presbyterian, Arkadelphia
- Steve Willis, Disciple of Christ, Hot Springs
- Doug Criss, Methodist, Leachville
- Jimmy Teeter, Methodist, Blevins
- John Drymon, Episcopal, Batesville
- Kelly Pearson, Presbyterian, Dardanelle
- Jeff Cranton, Presbyterian, Hot Springs
- Ruskin Falls, Presbyterian, Little Rock
- Kerry Price, Non-denominational, Pine Bluff
- Terry Hart, Presbyterian, Bull Shoals
- Howard Gordon, Presbyterian, Little Rock