Unless the Arkansas Supreme Court decides otherwise, voters will have six constitutional amendments and one initiated act to consider in the Nov. 8 election.
The three from the legislature range from minor cleanup (allowing the governor to remain governor when out of state) to egregious — pledging state tax money to private business bond issues and giving tax money to big business lobbying organizations. In between is an amendment aimed mainly at giving sheriffs four-year terms.
The big battles come from petition drives.
DOPE: There's the initiated act to allow nonprofit dispensation of marijuana for medical purposes and the amendment to allow for-profit dispensation. As I said last week, I'm for any step toward decriminalization of marijuana.
Governor Hutchinson assembled a bunch of doctors in lab coats Monday to reiterate his opposition. The group took the "reasonable" approach, solemnly proclaiming that an FDA study process was the best course and claiming — despite avid disagreement from tens of thousands of satisfied users — that prescription drugs exist that are better alternatives. They were either ignorant or lying when they suggested that marijuana could only be smoked. They signaled coming demagoguery by suggesting there was a particular horror in using pot tax revenue to provide palliative marijuana to poor people. Poor people are low on Asa's totem pole. The half of America that has already legalized is wrong. So, too, are the 75 percent of doctors who support medical marijuana, which has never killed anyone, unlike, say, alcohol or opioids.
You had to laugh when Hutchinson's crew tried to compare Big Marijuana to Big Tobacco, as if private enterprise was a boogeyman. Hutchinson's PAC, by which he helps elect like-minded legislators, takes money from Big Tobacco. His former chief of staff, Michael Lamoureux, took it by the bucketful while sitting in the state Senate. Cheech and Chong couldn't have scripted it.
DICE: A number of legislators and Bible beaters turned out for a campaign event against the amendment to allow two Missouri speculators to have sole rights to three casinos in Arkansas. It IS a bad idea. But, again, laughs were in order when the group moaned about the possibility that some guys from Missouri would get a monopoly for themselves written into the state Constitution. The folks at Oaklawn Park got a monopoly on pari-mutuel wagering on horses written into the state Constitution more than a half-century ago. And, wait for it ... the owners of that horse racing monopoly are from Missouri. With a little judicial and legislative sleight of hand, the Missouri horse race monopolists were joined by dog race monopolists in West Memphis in adding casino gambling to their lineup under the euphemism "electronic games of skill."
DEATH: Nothing less than fair compensation for a horrifying death is at issue in the effort led by the nursing home industry to pass an amendment that says a human life is worth as little as $250,000, no matter how much abuse, negligence or malpractice brought that life to an end. What's more, they want to cap attorney fees to further discourage lawyers from lawsuits over such neglect. The organized bar will fight the proposal if it makes the ballot. I'm guessing it will. Five of the seven Supreme Court justices who will decide whether it should be ballot eligible received big nursing home campaign contributions, most from nursing home magnate Michael Morton of Fort Smith. He has a good nose for judicial temperament when it comes to nursing homes. One justice, Rhonda Wood, got the majority of her money from nursing homes. She has been asked to get off an unrelated nursing home class action for that reason. As yet, no response. It also appears she participated in the court's orders last week setting briefing schedules in the amendment cases and naming special masters to review compliance in the signature gathering process.
Do I sound cynical? I mean to.