Marijuana goes mainstream at expo, industry leaders talk about expanding to recreational users February 18, 2022 By Griffin Coop The chairman of the state’s most well-funded marijuana ballot initiative touted his group’s approach to marijuana legalization Friday, saying his amendment is a responsible way to reform the state’s marijuana laws. While speaking at the Arkansas Times Medical Marijuana and CBD Wellness Expo, former state representative Eddie Armstrong, who leads Responsible Growth Arkansas’s campaign for legalization, said his group worked with many stakeholders, including law enforcement and government agencies, to learn about their apprehensions to legalization and how to ease their concerns. Known as the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, the measure would place restrictions on the expansion of cultivators and dispensaries and does not include home grows, which Armstrong said could open a Pandora’s Box and could create confrontations with law enforcement. An RGA flyer at the event said the amendment “provides oversight to keep children safe by limiting licenses and keeping home grows out of our neighborhoods.” The amendment is more restrictive than neighboring Oklahoma whose medical marijuana program follows a more unregulated approach for cultivation, dispensaries and home grows. “We’re not Oklahoma,” Armstrong said. “We’re not our border states.” The amendment would increase the maximum number of cultivation facilities from 8 to 20 and the maximum dispensaries from 40 to 120, but it would not expunge prior marijuana convictions, although Armstrong said he would like to see those and other issues of social equity and restorative justice addressed in the future. Armstrong touted the assistance his amendment will provide to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences through taxes generated by the sale of recreational marijuana. By helping UAMS achieve a National Cancer Institute designation with the additional revenue, Armstrong said he hopes Arkansans will be able to be treated for their ailments closer to home rather than seeking treatment out of state. Armstrong said Arkansas ranks near the top of the list for cancer deaths and heart attacks. Attorney Erika Gee, who spoke alongside Armstrong, said the “elephant in the room” was that two more groups were trying to get marijuana amendments on the November ballot. Armstrong, whose group has raised $1.75 million from five of the state’s cultivators, encouraged attendees to sign petitions for all three marijuana amendments but said his amendment was different because it is has significant resources. “We’re the well-funded one,” Armstrong said. A group of volunteers known as Arkansas True Grass is pushing an amendment called The Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022 and marijuana advocate Melissa Fults is pushing The Arkansas Marijuana Amendment of 2022. Any amendment will need at least 89,151 verified signatures by July 8 to make the ballot in November. While Armstrong and Gee spoke on the main stage, attendees mingled in the exhibit hall where cannabis businesses displayed products and information. The businesses included dispensaries, cultivators and CBD businesses, including one that sells CBD products for dogs and other pets. Will’s Cinnamon Shop of Hot Springs served coffee and CBD-infused cinnamon rolls and cookies outside the main auditorium. The expo continues on Saturday at 9 a.m. with a series on panel discussions in the auditorium and breakout sessions on a variety of topics throughout the facility. Tickets are available at www.centralarkansastickets.com.