TV host campaigns for Ark. medical marijuana plan

Associated Press Modified: October 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: October 18, 2012
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Talk show host Montel Williams on Thursday accused opponents of an Arkansas ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana of resorting to "racist" imagery with a television ad featuring an African-American actor portraying a drug dealer.

Williams, an outspoken supporter of medical marijuana, appeared Thursday at the state Capitol alongside members of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which is campaigning for Arkansas' legalization measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. He criticized an ad aired by a conservative group opposing the proposal.

"Offensive is really an understatement. It's the most egregiously racist, false statement you've ever seen in your life," Williams told a crowd gathered in front of the state Capitol steps. "They've people sitting in a picture holding guns, talking about medical marijuana, and of course they happen to be of different colors to make sure you're as irritated and angry as you can be."

The Arkansas measure would allow patients with qualifying conditions to buy marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation. If approved, Arkansas would become the first Southern state to legalize medical marijuana.

The Family Council Action Committee said it paid about $1,000 for airtime to run a 30-second spot opposing the measure. The committee is part of the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, which unsuccessfully sued to try and get the medical marijuana proposal off the ballot. The ad at one point shows a black actor sitting at a table with guns and filling bags with marijuana.

"The grass-growers and dope dealers would be in charge," the narrator says in the ad. "Arkansas doesn't need a state filled with stoned-out zombies, or the criminal activities that come from legalizing controlled substances."

Williams, who lives in New York, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He says he uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of his condition, but said he did not bring any with him to Arkansas out of a fear that someone would call for his arrest.

Williams called the ad misleading, saying that there are no dispensaries that allow guns inside them.

"It's a way to see if they can scare people into thinking this is something different than it is," he told reporters.