Pot, gay marriage, assisted suicide on US ballots

October 30, 2012 by David Crary
This Sept. 18, 2012 file photos shows a caregiver picking out a marijuana bud for a patient at a marijuana dispensary in Denver. After all the economy-focused campaign talk, voters in some states will get a chance on Election Day to sound off on intriguing topics that the presidential rivals ignored, including marijuana legalization, death penalty repeal and assisted suicide.(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

(AP)—Voters in some U.S. states will get a chance on Election Day to decide intriguing topics that President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have ignored, including death penalty repeal, marijuana legalization and assisted suicide.

In all, there are 176 measures on the Nov. 6 ballots in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

Some, if approved, would be historic milestones for U.S. social policy.

Any of three states—Maine, Maryland and Washington—could become the first to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote, a potentially momentous development that could influence future Supreme Court deliberations on the issue. Thus far, all 32 states with referendums on have rebuffed it, while the six states that have legalized it did so through legislation or court orders.

Washington, Oregon and Colorado could become the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, allowing adults to possess small amounts of pot under a regimen of state regulation and taxation. The Oregon proposal appears to be fizzling, but the Washington and Colorado measures have led in opinion polls and are backed by wealthy out-of-state donors.

A "yes" vote in any of the states could set up a showdown with the federal government, which continues to consider marijuana an . The Justice Department has declined to elaborate on how it would react.

Two other states, Arkansas and Massachusetts, will be deciding whether to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, as 17 states have done previously. Arkansas would be the first southern state to join the group.

Another emotionally charged measure in Massachusetts would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts would join Oregon and Washington in allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal doses of medication if doctors say they have six months or less to live.

The measure raises "the most profound questions that an individual can wrestle with," said the Rev. Tim Kutzmark, a Unitarian Universalist minister who shifted from a foe of to a supporter after watching a close friend slowly die from Parkinson's disease in 2002.

California has numerous attention-getting measures, including one that would abolish the state's . If approved, the more than 720 inmates on California's death row would have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty, and they later reversed themselves to reinstate it.

Another contentious measure in California would require most genetically engineered processed foods and produce sold in supermarkets and other outlets to be labeled as such. These GMO foods also will be prohibited from carrying the term "natural" on their labels.

Consumer groups and the organic food industry support the measure as a way of giving shoppers more information about what they purchase and consume, while many retailers are opposed, saying grocery bills would increase. Food and chemical conglomerates, including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., have contributed nearly $41 million to defeat the measure—close to 10 times what its supporters have raised.

California labor unions are the target of another measure, aimed at depriving them of tens of millions of dollars they use to finance campaigns and political organizing.

The battle follows conflicts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere where Republican efforts to weaken organized labor have produced protests and political tumult.

In Michigan, labor unions are fighting back. On Nov. 6, voters there will be deciding on a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative that would put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution—and out of lawmakers' reach.

If successful, the strategy could serve as a model for other states, encouraging unions to bypass hostile officeholders and take their case directly to voters.

"Labor is on the defensive," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization in Washington, D.C. "This could very well be a turning point if the people of Michigan affirm collective bargaining."

Explore further: Medical marijuana backers seek inroads in South

shares

Related Stories

Medical marijuana backers seek inroads in South

September 3, 2012
(AP)—The home state of the president who didn't inhale has become an unlikely front in the battle over medical marijuana.

Arkansas court upholds medical marijuana proposal

September 27, 2012
(AP)—The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a proposed ballot measure Thursday that, if successful, would make the state the first in the more conservative southern U.S. to legalize medical marijuana.

Recommended for you

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Study shows cigarette makers shifted stance on nicotine patches, gum

August 17, 2017
The use of nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhalers or nasal sprays—together called "nicotine replacement therapy," or NRT—came into play in 1984 as prescription medicine, which when combined with counseling, helped ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.