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Responsible Growth Arkansas reports raising $8.5M in October

More than half of donations given this month, filing shows by Neal Earley | November 2, 2022 at 4:55 a.m.
FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2019 file photo, marijuana grows at an indoor cannabis farm in Gardena, Calif.

A group leading the campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Arkansas has raised $13.4 million, according to its campaign finance report released Tuesday.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, led by medical marijuana consultant and former state legislator Eddie Armstrong, raised $8.5 million in October. Almost all of the funds the group has raised since August have come from the state's medical marijuana industry, which would be able to sell recreational cannabis if the amendment passes.

The finance reports are a required disclosure seven days before the Nov. 8 election.

Total donations to Responsible Growth Arkansas include:

• $3 million from Good Day Farm Arkansas LLC, of Pine Bluff.

• $2 million from Bold Team LLC, of Cotton Plant.

• $2 million from Osage Creek Cultivation, LLC, of Berryville.

• $700,000 from NSMC-OPCO LLC, of White Hall.

During a news conference Tuesday, Armstrong hit back at criticism from some that Issue 4 would create a cannabis monopoly controlled by the state's medical marijuana industry.

"Say hello to the Arkansas monopoly," he said to the laughs of a gathered crowd. "These are everyday, working Arkansans. These are people who are on payroll and on salary with children and health care benefits."

Dan Roda, co-founder and CEO at Abaca, a cannabis financial platform, said he was at the news conference to speak on behalf of the Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, for which he serves as vice president.

"These are businesses that are owned and operated by Arkansans. They employ Arkansans," he said.

If approved, the proposed constitutional amendment -- also known as ballot Issue 4 -- would allow the state to issue licenses to up to 120 dispensaries statewide, including existing medical marijuana licenses, to sell recreational cannabis to those 21 and older. Adults 21 and older will be able to legally possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana under the proposed amendment to the state's constitution. Arkansas could become the 20th state to legalize recreational cannabis if the amendment passes.

So far the group has spent $12.4 million, mostly on advertising. In October, Responsible Growth Arkansas spent $8.5 million and had $969,000 in its balance, according to its latest report.

"As the executive director of Arkansas Cannabis Industry Association, I am proud of the contributions by the industry stakeholders statewide to assist in the campaign and educate voters about the benefits of Issue 4," Bill Paschall said in a news release. "Campaigns are expensive, and it takes money to get on television, in mailboxes and in front of voters."

Proponents of marijuana legalization have run ads arguing the amendment would grow the state's economy, creating 6,400 new jobs. Those in favor of Issue 4 also said tax revenue from marijuana sales will be used to fund police and cannabis would be regulated safely, like alcohol.

Armstrong called the news conference in response to criticism the pro-legalization camp has received in recent weeks. On Monday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson called on voters to turn out against Issue 4, saying marijuana legalization would hurt the state's economy.

Hutchinson said legal recreational marijuana would hurt the state's ability to recruit companies to relocate to Arkansas, and representatives of the trucking, construction and agriculture industries said pot consumption would be an occupational hazard.

"That is a political fight. This is a citizen fight. And look no further [than] right behind me and at the over 190,000 Arkansans from every corner of the state who stepped up and signed our petitions to get this on the ballot," Armstrong said.

Helping to lead the campaign against Issue 4 is the Family Council Action Committee, which supports social conservative causes. The group has raised a total of $341,873, including $212,748 in October. Almost the entirety of the group's funding has come from Ronald Cameron, an Arkansas poultry executive and GOP donor.

Safe and Secure Communities, an anti-marijuana group that had previously raised $2 million, had not filed a financial disclosure report for October on the Arkansas Ethics Commission's website as of Tuesday evening.

Another group opposing recreational cannabis, Save Arkansas from Epidemic, has raised no money according to its financial reports.

It's not only social conservatives who oppose Issue 4. Some advocates in favor of legalization are urging people to vote against the constitutional amendment, saying it is a giveaway to the state's medical marijuana industry. Proponents of legal marijuana who oppose the amendment argue that legal recreational marijuana should include the ability to grow the plant at home -- something Issue 4 would not permit if passed.

Others have criticized the amendment for not including a provision to expunge the records of those previously convicted of low-level marijuana offenses.


Issue 2 is second among the four ballot initiatives in money raised. If passed, Issue 2 will increase the threshold needed to pass ballot measures from 50% to 60%.

Protect AR Constitution, a group that opposes the proposed amendment, has raised $782,7200 with $125,615 coming in October. The vast majority of the October funds 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 opposes Issue 2, raised about $80,000 in October with the vast majority coming from a $75,000 donation from the National Education Association and a $5,000 contribution from Arkansas Citizens First Congress.

Protect AR Rights also received $108,000 in non-monetary contributions from the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a self-described progressive policy group based in Washington D.C.

The campaign for the proposed amendment is led by Defend AR Constitution and has raised $78,000 in October. The group, chaired by Republican State Rep. David Ray of Maumelle, had just $60 in cash on hand after spending $77,940 on advertising, video production and a $10 bank fee.

Protect Our Constitution, a group also in favor of Issue 2 formed on Oct. 24, has raised $320,000. Oaklawn Jockey Club, Inc. of Hot Springs and Southland Racing of West Memphis donated $150,000 each to the group.

Arkansans Against Issue 1, which opposes the proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to call itself back into session, raised $142,000 in October. Its largest donation, $50,000, came from Jim Walton, chairman of Arvest Bank and son of Walmart founder Sam Walton.

The group also has contributions from the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Warren A. Stephens Trust.

Issue 3, a proposed amendment to the state's constitution that says government "shall not burden a person's freedom of religion," received $25 in October from the Family Council Action Committee. The committee has raised a total of $16,351 in support of the proposed amendment.

Print Headline: Legal pot’s backers raise $13.4M


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