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2 medical pot firms in state big donors in issue vote

Ballot campaigns report donations by Stephen Simpson | December 11, 2022 at 8:18 a.m.
'I Voted' stickers are shown in this file photo. (NWA Democrat-Gazette file photo)


Two medical marijuana companies in Arkansas contributed more than $1 million each in an unsuccessful effort to get recreational marijuana legalized during November's general election.

All four ballot initiatives were voted down in the election, but campaign finance reports released last week detail the efforts ballot committees went to during the campaign cycle.

The proposed constitutional amendment that received the most attention was Issue 4, the proposed recreational marijuana amendment. Had it been approved, it would have allowed the state to issue licenses for up to 120 dispensaries statewide, including those with existing medical marijuana licenses, to sell recreational cannabis to people 21 and older. Adults 21 and older would have been able to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana under the proposed amendment.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, the pro-recreational marijuana group led by medical marijuana consultant and former state legislator Eddie Armstrong, raised $14,147,002, with $808,840.73 coming in November, according to campaign finance reports. The group reported spending $14,239,037, leaving a balance of $92,034 at the close of the reporting period, according to documents.

Responsible Growth Arkansas reported raising $8.5 million in October. Almost all of the funds raised by the group since August came from the state's medical marijuana industry.

The largest reported donations came from Good Day Farm Arkansas LLC with a cumulative total of $3.15 million and Bold Team LLC at $2.2 million.

The Family Council Action Committee, which supports conservative causes and opposed the proposed recreational marijuana amendment, raised $408,373, including $66,500 in November. The group reported spending $408,253, leaving a balance of $120 at the close of the reporting period.

The largest donations opposed to Issue 4 came from Ronald Cameron, an Arkansas poultry executive and GOP donor who contributed $390,600 to the effort to defeat the proposed amendment.

Safe and Secure Communities, another anti-marijuana group, raised $2,298,696 with $4,139 coming in November. The group reported spending $2,273,623.20, leaving a balance of $25,072.99 at the close of the reporting period.

The largest donation opposing Issue 4 in November came from Arkansans Against Legalized Marijuana, which contributed $4,139.

A majority of the expenses aimed at defeating Issue 4 went to advertising, with $12,475 going to Reed Media Partners in Virginia and $10,472 going to CampaignHQ located in Iowa.

Save Arkansas from Epidemic, which also opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana, had not filed anything with the Arkansas Ethics Commission since the beginning of November, according to the commission's website Friday.

OTHER BALLOT INITIATIVES

Issue 2, an amendment that would have increased the threshold needed to pass ballot measures from 50% to 60%, also was voted down this year.

Protect AR Constitution, which opposed the proposed amendment, hadn't filed anything for the month of November, according to the Arkansas Ethics Commission website.

The group reported in October total contributions of $782,720, with $125,615 coming in that month. The vast majority of the October contributions came from a $75,000 donation from the National Education Association and a $40,000 donation from Unite America, a self-described bipartisan group based in Denver.

The group also received a $450,000 donation in September from the Washington D.C.-based Fairness Project.

Protect AR Rights, which also opposed Issue 2, reported raising $170,450 and spending $161,772.84, leaving a balance of $8,677 at the close of the November reporting period. The largest donations came from the Arkansas Public Policy Panel with a cumulative total of $85,000 and the National Education Association with a total of $75,000.

Defend AR Constitution, which was in favor of the proposed amendment, hasn't posted a report on the Arkansas Ethics Commission website since late October. The group was chaired by Republican State Rep. David Ray of Maumelle.

Protect Our Constitution, which also was in favor of Issue 2, raised $1,220,000 and spent $1,220,000. The largest donations came from Southland Racing of West Memphis with $800,000 and the Oaklawn Jockey Club with $400,000. A majority of money went to advertising, with $674,352 going to Targeted Platform Media.

Arkansas Against Issue 1, which opposed another proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed the General Assembly to call itself back into session, reported raising a total of $212,000 and spent all of it before filing dissolution papers.

Support for Issue 3, the proposed amendment that said the government "shall not burden a person's freedom of religion," was led by the Family Council Action Committee. The group reported raising $16,350 and spending $16,141 in November, leaving a balance of $209.53 at the close of the reporting period.


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