Three ballot proposals to be decided Tuesday


LITTLE ROCK — Voters will decide a pair of proposed constitutional amendments referred by the Legislature and a citizens’ initiative to legalize marijuana for medical use in Tuesday’s general election.

One constitutional proposal, Issue 1 on the ballot, would increase the state sales tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent for 10 years to finance a $1.8 billion bond issue to build a statewide system of four-lane highways.

Issue 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow cities and counties to do three things:

—Create Sales Tax Anticipated Revenue (STAR) districts for development or redevelopment projects.

—Have the ability to issue bonds to retire unfunded liabilities of closed police and fire pension plans, and the ability to ask voters to raise taxes to pay the bond debt.

—Use special revenues to pay principal and interest payments on short-term debt obligations.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, Issue 5 on the ballot, is a proposed initiated act that would authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes and require the state Department of Healthionate to set up a system of up to 30 nonprofit dispensaries that would distribute the marijuana to people who have certain diseases or conditions.

A patient would qualify if a doctor certifies that the patient has cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Tourette’s syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, post traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Marijuana also would be available for people suffering from a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome; peripheral neuropathy; severe nausea; seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

The act, sponsored by the group Arkansans for Compassionate Care, specifies that the drug would also be available to treat intractable pain, which is pain that has not responded to ordinary medications, treatment or surgical measures for more than six months.

The measure is opposed by the Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values, as well as the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, several law enforcement associations, the state drug czar and others. Coalitions of doctors have come out in opposition to and in support of the proposal.

The 14th annual Arkansas Poll released last month found that respondents who considered themselves likely voters in Tuesday’s election preferred the sales tax increase for highway projects by a margin of 53 percent to 42 percent. On the medical marijuana proposal, 53 percent said they opposed it and 43 percent said they supported it.

The poll had a margin of error or plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.