More than 50,000 Arkansans sign on for recreational marijuana May 12, 2022 By Griffin Coop The leader of an industry-led coalition to get recreational marijuana on the November ballot said his group is more than halfway to collecting the necessary signatures. Eddie Armstrong, former legislator and leader of Responsible Growth Arkansas, said Wednesday that his group has collected more than 50,000 signatures of the 89,151 needed to put its amendment legalizing recreational marijuana use in Arkansas before the voters in November. Funded mostly by five state cultivators, Responsible Growth Arkansas has raised more than $1.8 million for the effort to put the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment and has until July 8 to collect the signatures. “I have the utmost confidence that we will get to our set goal of the required amount of signatures to get this on the ballot,” Armstrong said. Responsible Growth Arkansas paid $300,000 to Advanced Micro Targeting, Inc. of Dallas to manage the signature collection, according to the group’s January financial report filed with the state Ethics Commission. Armstrong said he and others with Responsible Growth Arkansas are also overseeing the signature-gathering process and providing additional resources. He said the group has more than 60 canvassers across the state, with another 40 canvassers expected to join soon. Arkansas marijuana advocate Melissa Fults said Tuesday that she has dropped her competing amendment and will oppose the Responsible Growth Arkansas amendment. Little Rock attorney David Couch, who had supported Fults’ amendment, said Wednesday that he will oppose the Responsible Growth Arkansas measure as well. Couch drafted the constitutional amendment voters passed in 2016 to legalize medical marijuana in the state. Fults and Couch have criticized the Responsible Growth Arkansas measure as being too favorable to the industry rather than consumers. “It’s a horrible amendment,” Couch said. “That’s nothing other than a money grab by the current cultivators and dispensary owners. It does nothing for the consumer at all.” The measure would grant Tier 1 cultivation licenses to the eight cultivators who have already been granted licenses by the state Medical Marijuana Commission. The measure would not grant any additional Tier 1 licenses, but it would allow for 12 Tier 2 licenses for smaller cultivation facilities that have been described as being similar to microbreweries for the cannabis industry. The measure would allow for a total of 120 dispensaries. The commission has licensed 38 of the current maximum 40 dispensaries allowed under Amendment 98. The commission has attempted to change its rules so that it can award the final two licenses based on expired applications, but a temporary restraining order spurred by a lawsuit over the application process halted the process. Armstrong defended the Responsible Growth Arkansas amendment Wednesday, saying it is difficult to make all stakeholders happy but he believes the amendment has widespread support. Armstrong compared the situation to his time in the legislature when compromises were made that didn’t please all sides on every issue but did make progress. Armstrong also trumpeted the measure’s elimination of the tax on medical marijuana and heralded the revenue that a tax on recreational marijuana will provide to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, law enforcement and drug courts. Arkansas True Grass, a volunteer-led coalition, is also collecting signatures to get a recreational marijuana amendment on the ballot. Spokesperson Briana Boling said she will know by the end of the month whether the group has collected a significant number of signatures or whether the group will abandon the petition drive and begin planning to put an amendment on the ballot in 2024. Boling said the group will not support Responsible Growth Arkansas’s amendment if it makes the ballot. She said she could not support the measure because the 1-ounce limit for marijuana possession was not high enough and the amendment caps the number of cultivators and dispensaries. “We would not support the RGA amendment and we would definitely keep going for 2024 and beyond until we can’t petition anymore or we get freedom,” Boling said. Meanwhile, customers in Arkansas spent $24 million on medical marijauna last month, according to the latest tally from the state Medical Marijuana Commission.The state’s 38 dispensaries sold 4,213 pounds of marijuana last month, led by 417 pounds at Natural Relief Dispensary in Sherwood and 332 pounds at The Releaf Center in Bentonville.