Friday, September 23, 2016

Reefer madness: The Chamber of Commerce ups the crazy

Posted By on Fri, Sep 23, 2016 at 7:49 AM

REEFER MADNESS: A chamber of commerce lobbyist circulated this dishonest message on Twitter. It's dishonest because Arkansas is voting on medical marijuana. Colorado has legalized marijuana entirely. You must be 21 to purchase it there. Also, legislative approval would be required before marijuana could be sold in edible form in Arkansas.
  • REEFER MADNESS: A chamber of commerce lobbyist circulated this dishonest message on Twitter. It's dishonest because Arkansas is voting on medical marijuana. Colorado has legalized marijuana entirely. You must be 21 to purchase it there. Also, legislative approval would be required before marijuana could be sold in edible form in Arkansas.

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce seems to have taken on depriving sick people of medical marijuana as its current passion — along with protecting the casino duopoly enjoyed by its members at Southland and Oaklawn Parks.

Yesterday, it alerted members of a legal analysis that suggests they'll be faced with a drug-addled workforce and no means to cope should the law be changed to allow pain-relieving marijuana use by sick people. (Along with the addictive opioids and other remedies regularly employed in the workplace.)

It's distributing a "legal analysis" by a North Little Rock law firm that raises alarms, for example, about the measure's prohibition against discrimination against those who use medical marijuana. See, employers won't to be able to discriminate against potential employees if they've ever used marijuana. Good.

Also, if marijuana is a medicine, its use would be protected just as other prescription drugs are protected for other workers. Good.

Also, businesses might not be able to avoid doing business with people they suspect of being medical marijuana users. Again — good.

Then the opinion verges into workers compensation, something that employers in Arkansas have already managed to make sorely limited for injured workers. Again, the chamber rages, marijuana could not be used to avoid an injured workers' claim, the same as any other prescription drug. Again — good. (But wait, there's more on all these issues.)

It's all cut from the same cartoon cloth. Zonker Harris will run wild in the Arkansas workplace if medical marijuana is available to ease the pain and aid the appetite of sick people. For good measure, a chamber lobbyist is sending around on social media a picture of marijuana-laced candy and suggesting the Arkansas proposals will lead to rampant ingestion of pot candy by children. The laws indeed would allow children to use (not obtain) medical marijuana — with parental permission, as with any other pharmaceutical. And the lobbyist, Kenny Hall, is comparing the Arkansas proposals to Colorado, where marijuana is fully legalized (and sales are prohibited to those under 21.) Yes, I know. The substances can find their way into the hands of children. Whoever heard of that happening with beer? Maybe we should outlaw beer and whiskey sales, too, because you never know who might get hold of the stuff.

PS: I'm reminded that marijuana may be sold in Arkansas in edible form only if the regulatory agency that controls sales allows it in the rules it promulgates. And, under the Arkansas Constitution, any such rules will have to be approved by the General Assembly before they take effect. So Hall's Twitter is doubly dishonest.

You can read the full Chamber message here
I get the idea from the chamber diatribe that its unhappiness centers on the competition that medical marijuana will create for the pharmaceutical industry. That some might turn to safer, non-lethal marijuana (a relatively cheap organic plant) rather than expensive, addictive, killer opioids.

Lawyers are working in behalf of medical marijuana, too. One of them, David Couch, notes:

Section 6 (b)(2) of the Amendment provides that the Amendment does not require “an employer to accommodate the ingestion of marijuana in a workplace or an employee working while under the influence of marijuana.”

Section 6(a)(1) states that the Amendment does not permit a person to “undertake any task under the influence of marijuana when doing so would constitute negligence or professional malpractice.”

Section (6)(a)(2)(G) prohibits possessing, smoking or engaging in the use of marijuana in any public place.

Section 6(b)(3) states that the Amendment does not require “an individual or establishment in lawful possession of property to allow a guest, client, customer, or other visitor to use marijuana on or in that property.

Section 6(a)(2)(B) provides that the Amendment does not permit a person to possess, smoke or otherwise engage in the use of marijuana on the grounds of a daycare center, preschool, primary or secondary school, college or university.”

In addition to all these protections for churches, schools and others Section 23 provides that the General Assembly can amend the Amendment and provide additional restrictions if necessary.

The Chamber's desperation is linked almost certainly to the continuing rise in support for medical marijuana, already legal in 25 states. 

Again note this all backers of medical marijuana: The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is a leader in the effort to get voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would allow the pledging of tax money to loans to private businesses and also legalize taxpayer subsidy payments to chambers of commerce. This money has been used to subsidize chamber lobbyists for issues like this.  So in addition to voting YES on medical marijuana, VOTE NO ON ISSUE 3, lest you favor taxpayer benefits for this kind of thing.

Regrettably, Couch's medical marijuana amendment campaign is helping fund a lawsuit attacking signatures for the medical marijuana initiated act. Proposed findings of fact by parties in that challenge are expected today. The initiated act may not survive. Yesterday's favorable ruling by the Arkansas Supreme Court on the act's ballot title likely is a good omen for the outcome of the Chamber of Commerce's attack on the medical marijuana amendment's ballot title. It seems likely to stand, since its signatures are not under challenge.

I think the divide-to-conquer approach by would-be for-profit merchants of marijuana will cost the amendment support among believers in medical marijuana. That is a pity, if understandable. I still plan to vote for both, thinking either is better than nothing. Otherwise, the pharmaceutical industry and the chamber of commerce win.

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