Arkansas marijuana advocate Melissa Fults dropped her efforts to put a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana on the ballot this year. Instead, she said she will devote her time to defeating a well-financed amendment supported by the state’s marijuana cultivators.
Fults said she ended her push for the Arkansas Marijuana Amendment of 2022 after it became apparent she wasn’t going to get the required 89,151 verified signatures by the July 8 deadline. Fults said she’s already looking ahead to 2024, when she plans to introduce another amendment to free up access to cannabis in Arkansas.
This leaves two cannabis-related amendments still alive for the 2022 ballot. Arkansas True Grass filed a constitutional amendment called the Arkansas Recreational Marijuana Amendment of 2022. The effort appears to lack much funding or visibility.
Responsible Growth Arkansas, however, is running a well-funded, industry-backed campaign to pass the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment. Led by former state legislator Eddie Armstrong, Responsible Growth Arkansas has raked in $1.82 million in donations as of March 31, according to records with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Five of the state’s eight cultivators pitched in $350,000 each for a total of $1.75 million.
Fults said she had hoped some members of Arkansas’s marijuana industry would support her 2022 initiative financially, but that the hefty influence and resources of the Responsible Growth Arkansas team smothered her efforts.
Fults has said she believes the Responsible Growth Arkansas proposal is too favorable to the industry rather than to the patients and consumers. Fults said the Responsible Growth Arkansas proposal will “kill the medical program,” because she believes cultivators and dispensaries will not provide a wide variety of strains that can help ease patients’ medical problems. Instead, she fears, producers will be incentivized to cater to the recreational consumers and simply grow the strains that have the highest concentrations of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.
If Responsible Growth Arkansas’s Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment makes the ballot, Fults said she plans to fight it in court.
“That’s another reason we pulled ours, so that we would have more time to devote to killing RGA [Responsible Growth Arkansas], and that is my full intention, and I do not apologize for it,” Fults said. “I’ve worked too hard to help patients get medicine to watch it go down the drain for greed.”
Regardless of the fate of the Responsible Growth Arkansas, Fults has already filed a new amendment with the Arkansas Secretary of State for the 2024 ballot. It’s similar to her 2022 proposal, but with an element that allows anyone 21 and older to grow four mature plants and four seedlings at home.