Pubdate: Fri, 26 Aug 2016
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, AR)
Copyright: 2016 The Associated Press
Note: Accepts letters to the editor from Arkansas residents only
Author: Andrew Demillo


Regulation Would Be a 'Tax Drain' On State, He Tells Counties

HOT SPRINGS (AP) - Legalizing medical marijuana would be a drain on 
the state's resources, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Thursday as 
legalization supporters asked the state's highest court to dismiss an 
attempt to block their proposal this fall.

The governor also expressed opposition to a casino ballot measure 
while speaking to the Association of Arkansas Counties.

Hutchinson, the former head of the federal Drug Enforcement 
Administration, said he was concerned about the costs of regulation 
and enforcement if voters approve legalizing marijuana for some patients.

"You can imagine the enforcement issues, the regulatory issues that 
are involved in this," the Republican said. "I do not see any tax 
boon to the state. I see more of a tax drain to the state."

The secretary of state's office last month approved one medical 
marijuana proposal, an initiated act, for the November ballot and is 
reviewing the validity of signatures on petitions submitted for a 
competing measure, a constitutional amendment. Arkansas voters 
narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana four years ago.

David Couch, the sponsor of the proposed amendment still being 
reviewed, said fees and taxes in his proposal would more than pay for 
the cost of regulating the drug, adding "it's going to be revenue positive."

Melissa Fults, the head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which is 
behind the initiated act approved for November, said regulation would 
also be covered by taxes and license fees. Plus, she said, it would 
create jobs at dispensaries and for related services such as security 
and grow-lighting.

"It's going to create a huge number of jobs besides giving patients 
an alternative for their medicine," Fults said. "I think he would 
appreciate jobs being created."

Fults' group asked the state Supreme Court to dismiss a request by 
opponents to prevent the state from counting or certifying any votes 
for the proposal. The complaint filed Wednesday claims the language 
of the proposal's ballot title is misleading.

The yet-to-be-approved ballot measure that would allow casinos in 
Boone, Miller and Washington counties concerns Hutchinson because it 
wouldn't give local officials a say and because Hutchinson believes 
Arkansas doesn't need any more gambling. He said he's concerned by a 
provision giving the limited liability corporations designated in the 
proposal control over those to whom they could transfer the gambling rights.

"If you're going to have an expansion of gambling in Arkansas, and 
particularly the area of casinos, let the state regulate and select 
appropriate vendors for that purpose," Hutchinson said.

Robert Coon, a spokesman for the group campaigning for the casinos 
measure, said the amendment would provide oversight through a new 
commission and the casinos would be subject to laws implementing the amendment.

"What can't be disputed is the tremendous impact that this amendment 
will have on the state of Arkansas in the form of new jobs, increased 
tourism, and tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue that can 
be utilized to pay for priorities such as education, roads and 
infrastructure, economic development, and future tax cuts," Coon said 
in an email.

There are November ballot measures Hutchinson said Thursday he backs, 
including measures that would change county officials' terms from two 
years to four, allow the governor to retain his powers when out of 
state and remove the cap on bonds Arkansas can issue for large 
economic development projects. Hutchinson said he's still studying 
another proposal that would set limits on damages awarded in lawsuits 
against health care providers.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom