State constitution questions on ballot |

State constitution questions on ballot

by Christy Chalmers

Nevadans have three constitutional amendments to consider in the general election.

One deals with the definition of marriage and another could authorize marijuana use for medical reasons.

A third, which has not gotten as much attention as the other two, would allow the state to invest in projects or companies to stimulate economic development.

The medical marijuana and economic development proposals can become law with voter approval Nov. 7. The marriage definition change will have to be passed again in 2002.

Here’s a look at what each one addresses.

Nevada Question No. 1: Economic investment

Approval would allow the state to invest in entities that could provide new, high-quality jobs and stimulate the economy.

The current law, which has its roots in the 1800s, allows the state to invest only in educational and charitable corporations. As a result, state leaders can’t consider laws that would allow managed investments by the state.

The proposed amendment sets five criteria for state investments:

– The investment is for economic diversification or development of Nevada or for the creation of new, high-quality jobs

– The state can get a reasonable return

– Approval by two-thirds of the Legislature and the governor.

– Participation with knowledgeable private investors on terms that are the same or better than those of the private investors

– Revenue from the investments would be reinvested under the same conditions

Supporters say Nevada needs capital investment to diversify its economy and point to gambling competition in other states that threatens Nevada’s economy.

Opponents say public money shouldn’t be invested in private companies. They also add that the state can provide other incentives for economic development.

Nevada Question No. 2: Defining marriage.

Nevada law currently provides that marriage is between a male and a female, but the proposed amendment would take that a step further by specifying that only male-female marriages will be recognized in Nevada.

Proponents say that because marriages performed outside of Nevada are recognized under the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the U.S. Constitution, Nevada could be forced to recognize same-sex marriages if they ever become legal in other states. They say Nevadans should be able to decide how to define marriage and argue that the proper definition is of a traditional male-female union.

Opponents say the proposed amendment is discriminatory and unfair because it singles out one group for different treatment under the state constitution. They say same-gender couples are entitled to the same rights, benefits and privileges as traditional couples, and they argue the proposal is redundant because of the existing law.

Nevada Question No. 9: Medical marijuana.

The proposed amendment would permit marijuana use, with a doctor’s approval, by patients with illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and related conditions. Currently, all marijuana use and possession in Nevada is categorized as a felony.

The proposed amendment would require a doctor’s approval. Minors would have to get written authorization and parental consent and their parents would be in charge of acquiring and safeguarding the plant from unauthorized use.

The amendment wouldn’t allow marijuana use in a public or work place, and insurers would not be required to reimburse for the costs. It does provide for a confidential registry of authorized patients that would be available to law enforcement.

Supporters say marijuana is effective at relieving pain, nausea and other symptoms for some patients, and the proposal balances their needs against societal concerns about marijuana use.

Opponents say there are other, legal medications that provide the same effects as marijuana, and they worry it could be addictive or encourage people to try other drugs. They also point out that federal law makes possession or use of marijuana crime, which will prevent legal prescription and distribution and make enforcement difficult.

Nevada voters approved the medical marijuana proposal in 1998. Another affirmative vote would make it law.

The marriage definition amendment is facing its first ballot test. The economic development question was approved as a joint legislative resolution in 1997 and 1999.