Dr. David E. Smith, a Palliative Care physician at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, spoke on behalf of the "Physician Coalition Against Medical Marijuana" in a news conference on Wednesday.
"State of the art Palliative Care does not support the use of smoked marijuana as desirable treatment for relief of pain or suffering," he said.
Palliative care doctors specialize in relieving and preventing the suffering of patients. This includes treating patients who have chronic diseases as well as those who are nearing the end of life.
"I help patients deal with pain, suffering, and death every day. I want everyone in Arkansas to know that so called 'medical' marijuana is not a scientifically validated way to relieve suffering," said Smith.
Dr. Smith went on to say that he and his group are urging Arkansans to vote against Issue 5, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act. "I can think of no reason for using smoked marijuana as medicine."
"The pill form of cannabis is already available, but it is infrequently prescribed by palliative medicine physicians because it is an inferior medicine compared to other choices," Smith said.
Smith did say that his group agrees with the American Medical Association position that recommends rescheduling marijuana to allow more testing to determine if marijuana derived medications can be developed that are safe and effective. Current research shows no consistent or convincing benefit, but much more work is needed before releasing it and in the proper form for use as an approved medication. "Releasing it in the way proposed by the Marijuana Act is a dangerous proposition."
The Physician Coalition Against Medical Marijuana is an association of physicians formed to raise awareness about the dangers of legalizing medical marijuana in Arkansas.
The group expressed concerns that the wording of the proposed act would allow almost anyone to grow and smoke marijuana without oversight from the healthcare community. FDA regulation and local pharmacy oversight is essential for public safety, and especially when dealing with addictive drugs. In addition, the group cited problems experienced in other states such as addiction, an increase in drugged driving, parents neglecting small children, and an increase in teen use of marijuana.
A recent report on the CBS News program 60 Minutes stated that in Colorado marijuana centers now outnumber Starbucks and McDonalds combined. In November, citizens there will have the opportunity to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Several Arkansas organizations have recently gone on record against medical marijuana. The list includes the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association, the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police, and State Drug Director Fran Flener.