Medical Pot Act in Works for Arkansas November Ballot

June 04, 2004

Michael R. Wickline , Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana is confident that it will gather enough signatures of registered voters to qualify its proposed initiated act for the Nov. 2 general election ballot, a spokesman for the group said Friday.

Chloe Crater of Little Rock declined to disclose how many people have signed the group's petition for the proposal. The alliance needs to turn in the petition with at least 64,456 Arkansas registered voter signatures on it by July 2.

It must be turned in to the secretary of state's office. Attorney General Mike Beebe's March 12 approval of the popular name of 'The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act' and its ballot title allowed the alliance to start collecting signatures.

The group hired The Southwest Group of Las Vegas to collect signatures, Crater said. 'We are on target to have the amount that we need,' she said in an interview. 'There is a lot of support in this state for this issue. Arkansans are compassionate to patients suffering from chronic pain and chronic illnesses.'

Larry Page of Roland, executive director of the Arkansas Committee for Ethics Policy, responded that Arkansans 'are compassionate and kind, but I don't think Arkansans are convinced this is the best way to treat these maladies.'

So far the alliance has the largest treasury of any of the committees formed to promote or defeat ballot measures in Arkansas.

Through April, it reported contributions of $337,295 and expenses of $216,755.

The Alliance for Reform of Drug Policy in Fayetteville contributed $175, 200 to the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana. Billionaire Peter B. Lewis of Cleveland gave $161,000, according to financial disclosure reports.

The Southwest Group has been paid $186, 000 by the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana for canvassing and consulting.

Denele Campbell of West Fork, executive director of the Alliance for Reform of Drug Policy, said the 'lion's share' of the 5-year-old nonprofit group's $175,200 contribution to the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana came from Lewis. 'We were proud to have built such a strong organization in Arkansas over the past five years that Mr. Lewis would have the confidence to make this kind of investment in us,' said Campbell, who also is treasurer for the Arkansas Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

Lewis, chairman of the board for The Progressive Corp., an insurance company, has made financial contributions to groups promoting similar ballot measures in several other states. Billionaire financier George Soros of New York and Lewis are helping finance -- http://www.moveon.org -- advertising campaign aimed at defeating President Bush.

A spokesman for The Progressive Corp. said he didn't have a telephone number to reach Lewis on Friday.



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