Little Rock, AR — Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) – the sponsors of the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, Issue 7 on this November’s ballot – condemns a recent report issued by the state Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) as inaccurate and misleading. The report is a political stunt seeking to curtail support for Issue 7, which would offer seriously ill Arkansans the opportunity to seek this treatment option with their physician’s authorization.
The DFA report estimates that implementation of a program under Issue 7 would annually cost the department between $635,000-$993,000. The DFA arrived at these numbers in part by estimating the need to hire 20 new law enforcement officers and purchase 20 Dodge Ram 2500 trucks. Yet the report gives no reason why these new expenses are needed. In truth, costs for law enforcement personnel go down when states implement medical marijuana programs, as police no longer need to target patients seeking relief from cannabis.
The report makes other absurd claims as well, again with no explanation. For instance, the report claims that Issue 7 would cost a combined total of $3,960 per year for nitrile and latex gloves, and $100,000 for self-contained breathing apparatuses, devices worn by firefighters to provide breathable air in life-threatening situations. It is difficult to imagine how Issue 7 has anything to do with these expenses, and the report provides no rationale for their inclusion as Issue 7-related costs.
Most state medical cannabis programs are cost-neutral or run at a surplus. Programs in Michigan, Oregon, and Arizona have brought in millions of dollars in surpluses. For a comparison of fiscal information for state programs please see: http://bit.ly/2e8jjVn.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act was drafted to be completely self-funded by levying a tax on medical cannabis. Nonprofit cannabis care centers established under the Act would be required to pay a license application fee of up to $5,000 and an annual renewal fee of $1,000. Patients would pay an application fee of up to $50, and testing labs application fees range up to $1,000. ACC believes these sums will more than cover the administrative costs of running the program, and may indeed lead to a surplus.
Ryan Denham who serves as Deputy Director for the Issue 7 stated, “This misleading report is a desperate attempt by a state agency whose head was appointed by Gov. Hutchinson, who previously led the D.E.A. and is currently leading the opposition to this patient-led effort. We hope voters are not misled by this intentionally deceptive report and will make the sensible and compassionate choice at the polls in November.”
Arkansans for Compassionate Care is a coalition of concerned patients, physicians and allies who agree that sick and dying patients should have access to medical cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation. For tens of thousands of chronically-ill Arkansans, the relief afforded by cannabis helps them live comfortably without harmful side effects. But cannabis is currently unregulated and not legally available.
Issue 7 offers a better choice: controlled access to a medicine that is proven to be both safe and effective, especially against the debilitating effects of chronic illness and harsh medical treatments.
The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act was certified to appear on the November 2016 General Election ballot on July 7, 2016.
Ryan Denham, Deputy Director