Robbin Rahman, a lawyer and executive director of Harvest Cannabis Dispensary, a medicinal marijuana outlet in Conway, reports that he avidly read last week’s Arkansas Business deep dive into the history of medical cannabis licensing in Arkansas.
“Don’t get me wrong, that story is wild,” Rahman said in an email, referring to revelations that the FBI investigated the licensing process and that the chairman of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission now sees the granting of one cultivation license as unfair.
But Rahman, whose parents are co-owners of the Conway dispensary, felt he had to respond to a mention of a fellow attorney, David Couch of Little Rock, author of the 2016 medical cannabis amendment and a campaigner against the current ballot issue to legalize recreational marijuana.
Couch’s main objection is that the plan would restrict almost all cultivation and a lion’s share of sales to existing medical cannabis businesses, which will automatically get matching recreational licenses if voters approve the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.
But he also objects to the proposal’s lack of recognition for people who have been convicted of past marijuana offenses, and the fact that it keeps homegrown cultivation illegal.
“My primary interest is this,” Rahman said. “He [Couch] and Melissa Fults authored an amendment in 2022 that had a bunch of provisions in it that are identical to those in Issue 4,” the ballot proposal being voted on through tomorrow.
Actually, Couch said, he helped Fults, a longtime cannabis activist, with a failed ballot proposal this year but did not write it.
Rahman said the Fults proposal, which was called the Arkansas Marijuana Amendment of 2022 and fell short of enough voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, allowed for no legal home growing, no future alteration of provisions by the state Legislature and no caps on multiple licenses.
‘Yelling From the Rooftops’
“But now, they’re out there yelling from the rooftops that these same provisions are reasons Issue 4 should be voted down,” Rahman said. “The worst part is they’re using their ‘cannabis advocate’ bona fides to escape critical examination from basically anyone.” Rahman said Fults and Couch were doubling down on the promise of a new amendment that will “address everything” and still pass muster with voters in 2024. “This is pure fantasy,” Rahman said. “The politics of getting a citizen-initiated ballot amendment all the way through the process are super difficult, certainly harder than 2016. They will have no more success in 2024 than they did in 2022.”
Rahman said voters can make up their own minds on the current ballot issue, but he was moved to address “the fact that these particular self-professed cannabis advocates” are being hypocritical.
In response, Couch said he didn’t actually have a recreational cannabis proposal of his own this year. “I did a rough draft of one to begin with and advised Melissa on hers. I’d be happy to outline a real proposal” for Rahman, Couch said. He also noted that under Issue 4, Rahman “gets a free license worth millions, so it’s hard to take him seriously.”
Couch called the campaign for the adult-use proposal deceptive. “They are peddling fear that if Issue 2 passes we can’t ever legalize marijuana.”
Issue 2 on the ballot would require a 60% vote to pass future public-initiated ballot issues. “I think Issue 2 fails, but it will be close,” Couch said.
He added that the potential for more hurdles for ballot proposals in the future shouldn’t be a “legitimate reason to vote for a bad one now.”