LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas voters on Tuesday narrowly rejected a proposal to legalize medical marijuana and approved a sales tax increase to pay for $1.8 billion in highway repairs throughout the state.
With about 95 percent of precincts reporting unofficial returns early Wednesday, 51 percent of voters opposed the marijuana issue. Arkansas would have become the first southern state to legalize medicinal use of the drug had voters approved the measure.
Arkansas voters also rejected a proposal referred by the Legislature that would have allowed cities to create development districts backed by expected sales tax revenue.
Arkansans for Compassionate Care gathered signatures to get the marijuana measure on the ballot, saying that legalizing the drug would allow for ill patients to have another form of treatment.
Patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and Alzheimer's disease would have been able to obtain marijuana from nonprofit dispensaries with a doctor's recommendation.
But opponents argued that legalizing medical marijuana could lead to drug abuse and warned that the measure didn't specifically outlaw vending machines that dispense the drug.
About 58.5 percent of voters approved the highway sales tax with about 90 percent of precincts reporting unofficial results early Wednesday.
Legislators last year authorized a $1.8 billion highway improvement plan in exchange for a half-cent sales tax increase that will expire when the bonds are paid off. As part of the deal, an existing 1-cent fuel tax will be dedicated to highways. Supporters say the building plan will create 40,000 jobs and build four-lane highways to link much of the state.
The temporary half-cent tax increase does not apply to sales of groceries, gasoline or medicine.
Under the bond proposal, cities and counties would have been able to create development districts, with local approval, and dedicate sales tax revenue to pay off the notes. The Arkansas Municipal League and Gov. Mike Beebe backed the plan.