Voter turnout is low already
There has been some discussion lately of making voting in Arkansas more difficult by curtailing early voting and adding other voting restrictions. Before we do this, we should pay attention to an article in the September issue of the AARP Bulletin. On page 32, there is a table of voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election showing what percentage of citizens 18 and over voted in each state and the District of Columbia.
According to the table, based on U.S. Census reports, voter turnout in Arkansas (53.8 percent) was 48th in the nation. Minnesota was ranked first (75 percent). We were the lowest of any Southern state and finished ahead of only Hawaii, West Virginia and Utah.
If Arkansas ranked 48 out of 51, surely there is no need to add more voting barriers so that maybe we can be last in the country. We have already received enough low ratings in various areas to last a lifetime. We do not need another one.
For medical marijuana
It is fascinating to watch how some people endlessly rail against what they term "big government," only to turn around and call for government to exercise more control over something they deem objectionable. We have seen a fine example of this in the recent row over Arkansas's proposed medical marijuana initiative. The so-called "Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values" has fought tooth and nail to have the initiative removed from our November ballot to take away our right to vote on this issue. Apparently they don't consider the right of the people to decide an issue for themselves to be an Arkansas value worthy of preservation.
Arkansans should support this initiative. It is not part of a secret plot to legalize marijuana, as those in the "coalition" claim. It is an attempt to allow Arkansans suffering from serious illnesses to use a medication that helps them without fear that the police are going to knock down their door and throw them in jail. There is ample evidence that marijuana has genuine medicinal value. One need only do a quick Internet search to find it. It alleviates suffering from numerous conditions, including multiple sclerosis, many forms of cancer and cancer treatment, and rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few. There is also considerable evidence that it may be an effective treatment for Alzheimer's Disease and Lou Gehrig's disease, among others. Isn't the alleviation of unnecessary suffering an "Arkansas value?"
Arkansans should support this initiative. In fiscal 2012, Arkansas spent just under $360 million on its Department of Corrections. If you add other crime-related state expenses, the figure increases by over $100 million more. For fiscal 2011, the most recent year available, the Federal system spent roughly $15.5 billion on what it terms "drug control." Although exact figures are difficult to find, estimates are that somewhere between 40 and 50 percent of people in prison in the U.S. for drug offenses are in prison for using marijuana. Passing this initiative would allow Arkansas's police forces to focus their resources on those who are a genuine danger to society and to leave harmless people merely trying to treat their illnesses alone. Isn't saving the taxpayers money an "Arkansas Value?"
Arkansans should support this initiative. This is not a measure written by potheads for potheads, as the "coalition" would have you believe. Medical marijuana is supported by such "fringe organizations" as The AIDS Action Council, The American Academy of Family Physicians, The American Nurses Association, The Federation of American Scientists and The New England Journal of Medicine, just to name a few. Isn't allowing medical professionals to do what they believe is best for their patients without unnecessary government intrusion an "Arkansas Value?"
Arkansans should uphold real Arkansas values and support this initiative.
North Little Rock
Against medical marijuana
If a friend reads Tom Douglas' letter on Sept. 27, he will fall prey to its persuasiveness. He believes what he wants to believe and pays no heed to facts. Sadly, this state might pass a law allowing the use of a known cancer-causing drug, a drug that will never get FDA approval in its present form. Arkansans also recognize the high cost of enforcing drug laws. They might allow marijuana use to reduce those costs.
A better approach would be to decriminalize marijuana. Treat its use like a speeding ticket. Impose fines for abusers. Sell the stuff like liquor with a tax 10 times higher than the tobacco tax. Just as alcohol causes society many problems, so will marijuana. We will need every bit of those taxes to treat the problems. I am witness to it ruining one life. There are no adequate words to describe the anguish of this ongoing tragedy.
A law allowing medical marijuana use is unnecessary. If cannabinoids and marijuana are shown to be clinically beneficial, doctors will use them. They already use much more powerful drugs. For sure, the risk of cancer should keep everyone from smoking pot. Please do not allow yourself to be deceived. Vote against the lie called medical marijuana.
The Republicans are attacking the president about an attack in Libya that killed four Americans, saying he should have prevented it. Have they forgotten an attack on 9/11 in the U.S. that killed 3,000? Have they forgotten that on 9/11 there was a Republican president, in office for 9 months, who had received several briefings that Al Qaeda was planning an attack in the U.S.? Is this irony or hypocrisy? Pot calling kettle black? Goose and gander?
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