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Calif., Mass., okay recreational pot; Maine too close to call at midnight

  • FILE - In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana grows at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. The Obama administration will keep marijuana on the list of the most dangerous drugs, despite growing popular support for legalization, but will allow more research into its possible medical benefits, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File) Seth Perlman



Associated Press
Wednesday, November 09, 2016

NEW YORK – California and Massachusetts voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, giving a huge boost to the campaign to allow pot nationwide. Seven other states also voted on marijuana measures, one being Maine; others were voting on gun control and the death penalty.

In Colorado, voters approved a measure that will allow physicians to assist a terminally ill person in dying. That’s already a practice in five other states. Coloradans defeated a proposal that would have set up the nation’s first universal health care system.

In all, there were more than 150 measures appearing on statewide ballots. California led the pack with 17 ballot questions, including one that would require actors in porn movies to wear condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Another would ban single-use plastic grocery bags.

Five states, including Arizona, Maine and Nevada, considered whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

As of midnight, with 60 percent of precincts reporting in Maine, 50.5 percent were voting in favor of the marijuana question.

Voters in Florida and North Dakota approved measures allowing marijuana use for medical purposes. Voters in Arkansas were considering a similar proposal. Montanans voted on whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

The measure in Florida, a constitutional amendment that needed more than 60 percent support to prevail, made the state the first in the South with a full-scale medical marijuana program.

Collectively, it was the closest the U.S. has ever come to a national referendum on marijuana, which remained prohibited under federal law.

If “yes” votes prevailed across the board, more than 23 percent of the U.S. population will live in states where recreational pot is legal. The jurisdictions where that’s already the case – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia – have less than 6 percent of the population.

Another hot-button issue – gun control – was on the ballot in four states, including California, which already has some of the nation’s toughest gun-related laws. Proposition 63 would outlaw possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines, require permits to buy ammunition and extend California’s unique program that allows authorities to seize firearms from owners who bought guns legally but are no longer allowed to own them.

In Maine and Nevada, a group founded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent millions promoting ballot measures that would require background checks on nearly all gun sales and transfers. Supporters say the changes would close gaps in the federal system that allow felons, domestic abusers and the mentally ill to buy firearms from private sellers at gun shows and online without a background check.

Washington state had a ballot measure that would allow judges to issue orders temporarily seizing guns from individuals who are deemed a threat.

California was one of three states voting on capital punishment, with two competing measures on its ballot. One would repeal the death penalty, which California has rarely used in recent decades. The other would speed up appeals so convicted murderers are actually executed.

In Nebraska, voters were deciding whether to reinstate the death penalty, which the Legislature repealed last year. Oklahoma residents approved a measure to make it harder to abolish capital punishment. It seeks to ensure the state has a way to execute prisoners even if a given method is blocked.

Among the other topics addressed by ballot measures:

Minimum wage: Arizona voters approved a measure phasing in a $12 minimum hourly wages by 2020. Colorado and Maine were considering similar measures. In Washington state, where the minimum wage is $9.47 an hour, voters weighed raising that to $13.50 an hour by 2020. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

Gambling There were mixed verdicts on casino expansion. New Jersey voters rejected a measure that would have allowed casinos outside Atlantic City for the first time in the state’s 38-year history of legalized gambling. Rhode Island voters approved a measure to build a new casino in Tiverton.

Taxes: Maine voters were deciding whether to approve a 3 percent tax on people earning more than $200,000 a year to support an education fund for teachers and students. An Oregon measure would impose a 2.5 percent tax on corporate sales that exceed $25 million – with revenue earmarked for education, health and senior services. An initiative in Washington state sought to promote cleaner energy by imposing a tax of $25 per metric ton on carbon emissions from fossil fuels.

Tobacco taxes: Votes in four states – California, Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota – were deciding whether to raise taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.