Marijuana committee spent $886,000 on ads; sources unclear | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Marijuana committee spent $886,000 on ads; sources unclear

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 10:32 AM

Informing Arkansas, the committee formed to pass the medical marijuana amendment, reported in a final accounting last week  that it spent $886,663 on advertising to pass the amendment.

Who contributed the money is a more difficult question.

The sources for the money were:

* Vantage Investment, which lists only a mail drop in Little Rock as identifying information. It gave $626,521. People associated with the effort have refused to identify anyone associated with an entity by that name. The only business entity by that name I can find in Arkansas is Vantage Investment Holdings, of which Jackson T. Stephens III, grandson of one of the founders of the Stephens Inc. financial empire, is a member. The corporation dissolved in Arkansas but remains registered in California.  I've been unable to reach anyone to say if there's any relationship between that entity and the campaign. David Couch, the Little Rock lawyer who's fronted much of this campaign, won't say. (He says it's not that he won't say, but doesn't know.)

* Broadleaf PSG of Cincinnati contributed $212,000. As I wrote previously,  it's headed by Cheney Pruett of Texarkana, who's interested in getting into the business. It also accounted for $357,000 in money and non-money contributions to a separate committee, Arkansans United for Medical Marijuana, which spent $885,000 on the petition campaign to qualify the amendment for the ballot.

* Bevans Family Trust of Maumelle, whose interests in include retail liquor, contributed $50,000. It, too, helped pay for the petition drive, about $430,000.

Informing Arkansas spent about $774,000 on TV advertising through Diamond States Consulting, headed by Keith Emis, a long-time Republican consultant.  It spent $112,000 on digital advertising through the Markham Group.

Informing Arkansas dissolved with about $1,800 on hand.

So, in the end, the single biggest source of money was an unknown entity, Vantage, with $626,521 in spending, followed by Broadleaf with about $569,000 and Bevans Trust with $480,000.

The Medical Marijuana Commission meets today. Among the decisions to be made eventually is whether it will chose for the available dispensing permits based strictly on qualifications or by a lottery system, likely to include some qualifications to participate. That process will cost money, too, and not necessarily guarantee an outlet. This, after $1.7 million to qualify and pass the amendment from three primary sources
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