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ROGERS -- Police Chief Lynn Hahn was one of many city officials, including Garfield mayor Gary Blackburn, from northwest Arkansas at a meeting Thursday, Sept. 26, with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, State Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, State Sen. Jim Hendren, State Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe and State Drug Director Kirk Lane.

The meeting was organized by Bledsoe to educate people about a petition drive to legalize recreational marijuana.

"It's much different than it was 10 years ago," Hutchinson said of getting items on the ballot, explaining that "outside money influence" and "paid canvassers coming from outside money has shaped the ballot initiatives."

He said that because of the size of Arkansas, a $1 million investment can shape policy for decades.

Hahn said: "I was there because obviously I have an interest in the legalization of marijuana and how it will affect our community from both personal and law enforcement perspective. My biggest concern is children.

"In other areas, like Colorado, where it's been legalized, kids getting marijuana has gone up drastically," Hahn said. "We've already got stuff in the schools. We already have a problem with vaping with THC in the schools."

"Legalization for marijuana is the wrong direction for Arkansas," Hutchinson said.

"Look at what we're trying to accomplish -- reduce teen use of illegal substances whether vaping, marijuana or meth. History tells us, but also the other states that have moved to recreational use of marijuana. It's not disputed. Teen-aged use of marijuana goes up at the same time it's legal for adults," Hutchinson said. "We have just adopted medical marijuana. We're just now getting that out to the community that needs that type of medicine. It would be wrong to shift gears and saw we're going to blow that out of the water and go straight to recreational use. It's too much too soon and the wrong direction."

For a rural community like Pea Ridge, Hutchinson said small communities too often don't have the resources for enforcement or social response.

He said one of the biggest challenges law enforcement faces right now is not having the technology and resources to measure driving under the influence of marijuana as they do with alcohol.

"This is serious. Don't just be cordial and sign. Be a good neighbor. Think about it," Hutchinson said about petitions. "If you're opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuana ... stop it at the petition process. Once the voters put their stamp of approval on something, then you're in the implementation."

General News on 10/02/2019

Print Headline: Officials express concern for youth

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