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Weed, Wages and Guns on State Ballots

State ballot initiatives address some issues that Congress hasn't

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Candidates will not be the only choices that voters will have in many states on Tuesday as state governments work to fill gaps on certain issues where Washington has not acted.

Here are some of the hottest topics that will be on the ballot across the country:

Legal pot

After Tuesday, recreational use of marijuana could be legal on the entire West Coast.

California, Arizona and Nevada all have legalization on their ballots while Massachusetts and Maine would be the first states to legalize recreational marijuana on the East Coast. In 2014, Washington, D.C., voted to decriminalize up to two ounces of marijuana.

They would join Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington, which have all legalized small amounts of recreational weed.

Florida, Montana and Arkansas will all have ballot initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. A recent poll showed a slight majority support medical marijuana in Arkansas.

So far, 25 states have legalized medical use. While many conservatives and some Democrats blanch at the idea of legalizing marijuana, one analysis said marijuana might be a $50 billion industry in ten years.


This year, there will not be any ballot initiatives expanding gun rights and the major ones will be focusing on background checks. 


In Nevada, Question 1 would require that the transfer of a firearm from an unlicensed individual to another unlicensed individual must undergo a background check from a licensed dealer. A similar ballot initiative known as Question 3 is being proposed in Maine. 


Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, Michael Bloomberg’s spending group that supports gun control, is supporting both initiatives.


Another ballot initiative in Washington state would allow for law enforcement, family and household members to obtain a court order to prevent someone they think would present a significant danger from obtaining firearms.


The initiative bears a  resemblance to the gun violence restraining order in California, which also has a ballot initiative that would require background checks to purchase ammunition and prohibit the possession of high-capacity magazines.

Capital punishment

In 2014, Nebraska’s legislature overrode Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of a bill abolishing the death penalty in the conservative state. On Tuesday, Nebraskans will vote whether they want to repeal the ban or maintain it.


Ricketts, who is part of the family that owns the newly-minted World Series champion Chicago Cubs, has spent at $300,000 to bring back the death penalty.


California has two competing ballot initiatives regarding the death penalty. Proposition 62 would replace capital punishment with life in prison while Proposition 66 would expedite cases.


In Oklahoma, Question 776 would amend the state’s constitution to say, among other things, that any form of execution will be allowed except if prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.


Furthermore, the amendment would make it that a death sentence would not be reduced because a form of execution is considered invalid. This is relevant in Oklahoma since the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in 2015. Oklahoma’s executions have been placed on hold since then.

Minimum wage


Arizona, Washington state, Colorado and Maine will all have initiatives to increase the minimum wage in their states.


Arizona’s initiative would establish the right to earn paid sick time as well as gradually raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. Likewise, Washington’s plan would raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020 and establish paid sick time.


Both Colorado and Maine’s initiatives would also raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and subsequently would be increased alongside the cost of living.


Conversely, in South Dakota, a ballot measure would reduce the minimum wage to $7.50 for people under the age of 18. In 2014, the state voted to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 with a cost of living increase.


Right to work


While both Virginia and Alabama have so-called “right to work laws” that prevent employers from requiring union membership, both states are trying to enshrine the laws into their state constitutions.



Many states have already passed initiatives to conduct redistricting by commission. If passed, South Dakota’s would be the latest to take redistricting control away from the state legislature and give it to an independent commission.


South Dakota’s commission would consist of nine people selected from a 30-person pool. Ten members in the pool would belong to each party, with the final ten being unaffiliated with either party. Three people from each group would be selected to be on the commission.


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