Week in Review: Budweiser Sponsorship of Arkansas Medical Marijuana Event Fizzles

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By Chris Walsh

A red-hot story circled the Web recently about Budweiser sponsoring a fundraising event for medical marijuana legalization in Arkansas.

It sounded too good to be true – and in the end that’s exactly what it was. Budweiser didn’t actually sponsor the event, held last Saturday, or underwrite the venue. In fact, it wasn’t involved at all.

The erroneous information – announced in a press release issued ahead of the event – was the result of miscommunication among organizers, according to Melissa Fults, campaign director at Arkansas for Compassionate Care.

A local Budweiser distributor had been trying to get corporate to sign on as a sponsor and was negotiating with company officials but ultimately was unsuccessful. Somewhere along the communication chain it was portrayed as a done deal, leading to the press release by Americans for Safe Access, which is also supporting the legalization bid.

The two main take-aways:

#1. Communication can be a huge challenge when you have a statewide campaign involving different groups, so it deserves extra attention – especially if you’re going to issue a press release about a fairly big development with broad implications for the industry. “If you’re not very, very careful information can get passed on that’s not correct or misunderstood, and that can result in a great big mistake,” Fults said.

#2. Major corporate brands are still not ready to publicly put their weight behind medical cannabis and the industry in general. So we might not see a large, well-known company get involved – via sponsorships, donations or partnerships with existing cannabis companies – for a while.

But they are starting to kick the tires and consider the possibilities. It appears that Budweiser officials were willing to hear out the local distributor, and that’s a step in the right direction.

, Week in Review: Budweiser Sponsorship of Arkansas Medical Marijuana Event FizzlesGetting a corporate giant such as Anheuser Busch – which makes Budweiser, one of the oldest, most recognizable brands in the world – to support MMJ legalization would help push medical cannabis into the mainstream. It also could tip the scales in favor of legalization efforts across the country, especially in the conservative South, where medical marijuana has not yet made inroads.

The good news in Arkansas is that although the event didn’t bring in a ton of money, it was successful in other ways.

Supporters gathered 209 signatures and registered 10 people to vote. The group now has 6,000 signatures. That puts Arkansans for Compassionate Care well ahead of where it was at this time two years ago when it was gathering signatures for a measure that eventually appeared on the 2012 ballot (it was narrowly defeated).

The group needs to gather roughly 62,000 by July 7 to qualify the measure for the 2014 ballot.

“To get that many signatures in a small town in just a day was huge,” Fults said. “We are on track and energized.”

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