LITTLE ROCK — Legalizing medical marijuana would harm Arkansas’ businesses and make it more difficult to attract new businesses to the state, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Wednesday in a news conference at the headquarters of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce.
A proponent of medical marijuana told reporters after the news conference that business communities have not been harmed by the legalization of medical marijuana in other states.
Representatives of the Arkansas Trucking Association and the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas were among business leaders who joined Hutchinson and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin for the news conference voicing opposition to two separate ballot issues that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Hutchinson said that when he talks to businesses about locating in Arkansas, “what they bring up is a qualified workforce … in terms of training, both in terms of the work ethic and worker safety.”
“Clearly to me it is a matter of competition for jobs, it’s a matter of productivity for the workforce and safety,” he said.
Hutchinson said he does not believe that only sick people would use marijuana if either Issue 6 or Issue 7 becomes law.
“Whenever you say that it can be for pain, which is a subjective thing, whenever it’s such a long list of (qualifying) ailments, there’s incredible discretion and there’s always going to be the availability of it for somebody who wants to make up something and wants to smoke marijuana,” he said.
Butch Rice, president and CEO of the Arkansas Trucking Association and president of Stallion Transportation of Beebe, said the trucking industry faces a shortage of drivers.
“We see this as just making it even tougher when you legalize (medical) marijuana to the standpoint of hiring drivers,” he said. “We are a drug-free, zero-tolerance … industry, so we don’t need anything that’s going to add to the situation to make it even harder to regulate.”
Doug Wasson, president and CEO of Kinco Constructors, which has offices in Little Rock and Springdale, said he was speaking on behalf of his company and the Associated General Contractors of Arkansas in opposing Issues 6 and 7.
Wasson said that thanks to an aggressive drug-screening program, “Kinco’s worked over 2.8 million man hours without a lost-time accident. I think that if either of these issues were to pass, we’ll no longer effectively be able to continue our drug program.”
Ryan Denham, deputy director of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group sponsoring Issue 7, attended the news conference and told reporters the opponents’ concerns are unfounded.
“If you look at the 25 states that have passed medical cannabis, many of those states’ economies are doing great right now,” he said. “If you look at the state economy of Arizona — Arizona’s law is very similar to what we’re proposing here in Arkansas — they don’t have these types of problems that the opposition is predicting will happen.”
Denham said there is no reason to believe that legalizing medical marijuana would make workplaces less safe.
“We’ve prescribed millions of Americans with oftentimes dangerous medications, and they need to have limitations on what kind of work they should be able to do. That should be similar with the medical cannabis law,” he said.