Arkansas’ recreational marijuana campaign raises $850,000 in September

 This Sept. 30, 2016, file photo shows a marijuana bud before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)
This Sept. 30, 2016, file photo shows a marijuana bud before harvesting at a rural area near Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

A pro-recreational marijuana legalization group backed by the state's medical cannabis industry raised $850,000 in September, but anti-cannabis advocates have more cash on hand.

Responsible Growth Arkansas, a non-profit group that supports the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis, raised $850,000 almost entirely from the state's medical cannabis industry, according to financial statements filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

Responsible Growth Arkansas helped lead the push to get the recreational marijuana question on the November ballot. If the amendment is approved by voters, people 21 or older will be able to legally possess up to one ounce of marijuana in Arkansas.

Medical marijuana became legal in Arkansas after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 to authorize the drug for medical use. If the latest amendment passes, Arkansas medical cannabis dispensaries would be allowed to sell recreational marijuana.

The amendment would limit the number of licensed recreational marijuana dispensaries to 120. The state limit on the number of medical marijuana dispensary licenses is 40.

Bold Team LLC, a medical marijuana cultivation and processing business in Cotton Plant, and Good Day Farm LLC, which has four medical dispensaries in Arkansas and 18 in Missouri, donated $300,000 each to Responsible Growth Arkansas in September. In total, both businesses have contributed $1 million to the group.

As of Sept. 30, Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised a total of $4.86 million and had $945,558 in cash on hand. In September, the group spent $404,594, mostly on advertising. Targeted Platform Media received $236,786 from the group for advertising. Other funds were largely spent on consulting and legal services.

In contrast, the main group against the amendment is largely backed by two wealthy donors but failed to raise similar cash in September. Safe and Secure Communities, which supported the legal effort to get the marijuana amendment removed from the ballot, raised just $10,347 in September.

The group's fundraising in September came largely from one donor, Gregory Hartz, a financial analyst from Little Rock. The group still has $1.32 million in its cash balance, largely thanks to two donors who contributed a combined $1.75 million to the group in August.

Mountaire Corporation CEO Ronald M. Cameron of Little Rock donated $1 million to Safe and Secure Communities in August, while Richard Uihlein of Lake Bluff, Ill., donated $750,000. Safe and Secure Communities spent $619,000 in September, mostly on advertising to the Arlington, Va., based Nebo Media Inc.

The Family Council Action Committee, which is running campaigns against the recreational marijuana amendment and in support of the proposed religious freedom amendment, received a $50,000 contribution from Cameron for its anti-cannabis push.

Cameron, a Republican Party donor, also contributed $10,000 to the group's campaign for the proposed religious freedom amendment. Both donations made up almost all of the group's fundraising on both campaigns.