Recreational cannabis opposition groups join forces, plan more TV ads, consultant says October 11, 2022 By Griffin Coop Two groups opposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Arkansas have joined forces and intend to air at least one more TV ad to influence voters, a campaign consultant said Tuesday. Safe and Secure Communities and Family Council Action Committee are working together to defeat the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment, according to Luke Niforatos, executive vice president at Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The organization is the top anti-legalization organization in the country and frequently consults with opposition groups in states where marijuana reform is being considered by ballot measure or legislative action, Niforatos said. The group is led by former White House drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet. Niforatos said he was not familiar with a third opposition group called Save Arkansas from Epidemic, which intervened in a Supreme Court case on the matter along with Safe and Secure Communities. The group included an affidavit from Sabet in its request to the Supreme Court in August. Safe and Secure Communities debuted its first TV ad last month focused on what the group said were negative consequences of legalization in other states. The opposition groups are planning at least one more TV ad and the Family Council will be holding a tour of cities around the state to speak with voters about the issue. “I do think we’re starting to get the message out there,” Niforatos said. “The question is going to be what additional fundraising and spending does the other side do and what is going to be the loudest message that’s heard.” Safe and Secure Communities is funded by $2 million from Republican megadonors Ron Cameron of Little Rock and Richard Uihlein of Illinois, according to the group’s financial filing with the state Ethics Commission last month. Family Council Action Committee is funded by a $78,600 donation from Cameron, reports show. Niforatos said the groups hope to raise more money in order to be the “loudest message” on the issue, although he said they have been outspent thus far by the industry-backed Responsible Growth Arkansas that is sponsoring the amendment. Responsible Growth has raised about $4 million, although most of that was spent earlier in the campaign to gather signatures for petitions. Financial filings show the group had a balance of less than $500,000 last month. “Right now, our side has been outraised by a little bit,” Niforatos said. “We’ll see if it becomes more. The loudest message is typically the one with the most money. It’s not too often in states that the public health and science message is the loudest one. Usually, it’s the industry, the profits and the money that can be made which is the loudest message that you hear. It’s just going to be really important to get that message out as much as we can.” The first ad by Safe and Secure Communities mentioned that nearly 50% of newborns at a “major hospital” tested positive for THC. The claim appears to be based on a report from a 42-bed hospital in Pueblo, Colorado, in which the hospital did not test all 52 newborns at the hospital that month. Instead, the hospital tested the babies of 11 mothers “due to suspected pre-natal exposure” and five of those babies tested positive for THC, according to a Colorado newspaper. Responsible Growth has aired two TV ads. The first was focused on the portion of tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales that will fund a stipend for certified law enforcement officers. The second ad was focused on four reasons to vote for the amendment, including job growth after the group released an economic development study showing the amendment would create 6,400 jobs.