Financial Impact of Medical Marijuana

FOX24

(Via KARK) Arkansas voters are facing the decision if medical marijuana should be legalized in the Natural State or not.

There has been much debate over the benefits of the medicinal value of cannabis, and the impact legalization could have on the state.

Business interests, including the state Chamber of Commerce, Truck and Farmer are some of the biggest critics of Arkansas’ medical marijuana program.

After ten years of a similar program in New Mexico, Fox16 wanted to hear the impact.

“This is the largest cultivation for commercial cannabis in the state,” Leonard Salgato of Ultra Health said.

Leonard Salgato is vice president for business development at Ultra Health, a company that specializes in the production and distribution of medical marijuana.

“That’s what you’re looking for, the frosting of the plant,” he said.

On eleven acres of land just outside of Albuquerque, Ultra Health is growing 450 plants of different sizes, strains, and colors.

Ultra Health also operates six dispensaries.

In all, the company employs 60 people in New Mexico.

Salgato says it is evidence of the economic power of medical marijuana.

“We are a 45 million dollar industry in this state today,” Salgato said.

“We’re really the voice of New Mexico business at the state legislature, so we really are the lobbying arm of the business community here in New Mexico,” Jason Espinoza, President/CEO of New Mexico ACI.

Everyone does not agree cannabis is good for business.

“There was a lot of unintended consequences,” Espinoza said.

Jason Espinoza is president and CEO of the New Mexico Association of Commerce and Industry.

“One of the issues, it has really caused havoc in is workers compensation,” Espinoza said.

Legalization and subsequent court rulings force employers to pay for the medical marijuana of employees on workers comp.

“It’s still a schedule one drug on the federal level, so what do New Mexico businesses do?” Espinoza asked. “Do they follow the New Mexico court order and break federal law, or do they follow the Feds and break New Mexico law?”

Proponents say the industry is growing and benefiting the state.

Since 2014, sales tax from medical marijuana has pumped nearly $5 million into state coffers, and it is a number that is growing.

This is at a time when New Mexico is facing huge budget deficits.

“Think about the benefits economically that it can bring to your state,” Salgato said.

Espinoza urges caution.

He says chasing green does not always pay off.

“If it’s negatively going to impact the employers in certain ways like it has here in New Mexico that is going to disadvantage you in job creation and business investment and hurt the economy moving forward,” he said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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