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Former DEA Head - Now Arkansas Governor - Says Legalization Would Drain State Resources

Legalizing Arkansas 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 prevent a vote on their proposal this fall.

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 for the November ballot and is reviewing petitions submitted for a competing measure. Arkansas voters narrowly rejected legalizing medical marijuana four years ago.

David Couch, the sponsor of the measure 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.”

Legalization would be a job creator

Melissa Fults, the head of Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which is behind the measure approved for November, said regulation would also be covered by taxes and license fees. Plus, she said, it’ll 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 is misleading.

“They have to tell us, the court and other parties, what the facts are, but they don’t,” the group said in Thursday’s filing.

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