Arkansas Medical Marijuana Backers Spend $406K in Oct. as Part of Big Preelection Push

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An Arkansas medical cannabis legalization measure faces an uphill battle, but supporters hope a last-minute blitzkrieg of TV ads will sway enough voters to push the initiative over the top.

Arkansans for Compassionate Care – the group behind the measure – spent $406,000 in October to promote medical marijuana legalization in the state, according to documents it submitted this week. It was able to raise nearly $420,000 during the month, most of it tied to a huge infusion from the Washington DC-based Marijuana Policy Project. The Drug Policy Alliance ranked as the second-largest donor, pumping $15,000 last month into the effort.

Campaign organizers spent most of the money ($399,000) on advertising, mainly on a series of TV ads that aired in recent weeks.

To date, the campaign has raised nearly $709,000 in contributions. It now has $16,700 left in its coffers just four days before the election.

The latest poll (conducted Oct. 18) showed the measure trailing by a significant margin, with 38% of likely voters supporting it and 54% opposed. But the Marijuana Policy project points out that the poll was taken before the TV ad campaign, which started on Oct. 19.

“We’re running a substantial number of ads, and our opponents are running none, so the polling will certainly rise between October 19 and November 6,” MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia said earlier this week.

Closing the gap is doable, as the polls have shown big swings in voter sentiment on the issue. One conducted in the summer showed voters evenly split on marijuana legalization, and MPP said a private poll taken between Sept. 27 and Oct. 1 showed the initiative leading by 2 percentage points.

Steve Fox, the director of government relations for MPP, said supporters on the ground in Arkansas report “almost universally favorable” responses. At the same time, the polls showing the initiative trailing by a wide margin could be misleading, as many residents of the conservative state might say one thing to a pollster on the phone but vote differently in the privacy of a booth.

If the measure passes, it would represent a major coup for the national MMJ industry.

“Arkansas would be a huge symbolic victory,” Fox said. “Aside from the benefits that patients in the state would get, it would be the first state in the South” to legalize medical marijuana.