Cathey to lead med­i­cal pot group

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - BRIAN FANNEY

The chair­man of the state med­i­cal board will serve in the same ca­pac­ity for the newly formed Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana As­so­ci­a­tion, the group an­nounced Wed­nes­day.

Dr. Steven Cathey will join Dustin McDaniel, the for­mer state at­tor­ney gen­eral; David Couch, who spon­sored the voter-ap­proved Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana Amend­ment; and four busi­ness­men on the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana As­so­ci­a­tion.

The an­nounce­ment means two groups are now vy­ing to be­come the dom­i­nant voice for the bur­geon­ing med­i­cal-mar­i­juana in­dus­try in Arkansas.

“With the group of peo­ple that we’ve as­sem­bled — and the rep­u­ta­tion and leg­work of ev­ery­one on that list has put in on this is­sue — I think that we’re the group that most peo­ple are go­ing to af­fil­i­ate with,” Couch said. “I don’t think that there’s room for two. You need one voice.”

But Storm Nolan, pres­i­dent of the com­pet­ing Arkansas Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion, noted his group has been ac­tive since Fe­bru­ary and is work­ing on its af­fil­i­a­tion with the Na­tional Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We’ve had hun­dreds and hun­dreds of peo­ple come to our sem­i­nars and at­tend our pa­tient events,” he said. “We’ve got a board of pro­fes­sion­als — doc­tors, at­tor­neys, lob­by­ists, ac­coun­tants, in­dus­try ex­perts from other states, so I think we’re set up very well as the in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion.”

He said he was con­fi­dent his group would re­main the dom­i­nant voice when deal­ing with reg­u­la­tors, law­mak­ers and pa­tients.

There are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two or­ga­ni­za­tions.

Couch said most of the peo­ple on the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana As­so­ci­a­tion are in­ter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing in the in­dus­try.

Like­wise, Nolan has said he is plan­ning to ap­ply for li­censes to both grow and sell med­i­cal mar­i­juana. The dead­line to ap­ply is Sept. 18.

How­ever, some of the dif­fer­ences be­tween the groups hark back to the com­pet­ing med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pro­pos­als in ad­vance of the Novem­ber elec­tion.

While Couch sits on the board of the Arkansas Med­i­cal Mar­i­juana As­so­ci­a­tion, Nolan said the Arkansas Cannabis In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion is back­ing a Drug Pol­icy Ed­u­ca­tion Group pro­posal to add qual­i­fy­ing con­di­tions so more peo­ple can use med­i­cal mar­i­juana.

Melissa Fults is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Drug Pol­icy Ed­u­ca­tion Group. She ad­vo­cated for Is­sue 7, the Arkansas Med­i­cal Cannabis Act, which com­peted with Couch’s amend­ment and was knocked off the bal­lot by the Arkansas Supreme Court dur­ing early vot­ing.

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