CashMax chief backs 'pot' plan

Pruett 1 of 2 main supporters

Cheney Pruett, chief executive of newly opened lending business CashMax, also is one of two backers behind the proposed Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.


http://www.arkansas…">CashMax fees break state law, NLR says

Broadleaf PSG, a limited liability corporation, gave $175,065 to support Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, a ballot question committee backing the proposed amendment. The limited liability corporation is backed by Pruett, said David Couch, a Little Rock-based lawyer who is behind the amendment.

Pruett also backed ResponsibleOhio, a failed medical and recreational marijuana legalization plan in that state. The proposed initiated act, known as Issue 3, would have allowed commercial cannabis to be grown at 10 sites owned by ResponsibleOhio investors.

Melissa Fults, campaign manager for Arkansans for Compassionate Care, said voters should take a close look at the funding sources for the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment.

She supports a rival ballot measure, the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act. The proposed act is planned for the Nov. 8 general election ballot; the secretary of state's office is determining whether the amendment has enough valid signatures to get on the ballot as well.

"Mr. Couch's measure has been funded by two very big money groups," she said. "Consider what impact that could have on medical cannabis being legal in this state if that type of person is going to own the cultivation centers."

The ballot question committee backing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment had raised $444,982 through June. It has two backers: Bevans Family Trust, which owns Lake Liquor in Maumelle, and Pruett, whose business has raised the concern of the North Little Rock city attorney because of the fees it charges to facilitate short-term loans for cash-strapped people.

Couch said he's not at all ashamed of the financial sources for his campaign.

"What Melissa needs to worry about is where her money came from -- Washington, D.C., PACs, whose primary purpose is for the full legalization of marijuana in the state of Arkansas," he said.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care, which backs the Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, had raised $142,252 through June.

The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, New York-based Drug Policy Alliance and t̶h̶e̶ ̶W̶a̶s̶h̶i̶n̶g̶t̶o̶n̶,̶ ̶D̶.̶C̶.̶-̶b̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶N̶e̶w̶ ̶A̶p̶p̶r̶o̶a̶c̶h̶ ̶P̶A̶C̶ DKT Liberty Project* have collectively given $75,000. Social worker Geoffrey Oelsner Jr. of Fayetteville has also given $6,000. Most of the remaining funds came from small donors and from sales of t-shirts, flags, banners and bumper stickers.

Pruett said he would be interested in entering the medical marijuana business in the state, but "only if there is a proper regulatory framework in place." The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act contains "regulatory uncertainties," he said.

The competing Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment provides for at least 20 but not more than 40 dispensary licenses and at least four but not more than eight cultivation facility licenses. No owner, board member or officer would be able to own more than one dispensary or cultivation facility under the proposed amendment.

The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act caps the number of Cannabis Care Centers at one-twentieth the number of pharmacies that have obtained a pharmacy permit from the state Board of Pharmacy and operate within the state. There are 794 in-state retail pharmacies, according to the board, so there would be about a 40-center limit.

If more centers -- which must be nonprofits -- are "necessary to provide convenient access to Usable Cannabis by Qualifying Patients in all parts of the state," the state Department of Health may issue more registration certificates under the proposed act.

A Section on 08/05/2016

*CORRECTION: A ballot question committee supporting the proposed Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act received $25,000 from DKT Liberty Project, not the New Approach PAC. The ballot committee, Arkansans for Compassionate Care, filed an amended report with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Wednesday to change the funding source. The outdated information was included in this story.