In an election dominated by the outsized personalities of a few Tea Partiers, voters’ opportunities to engage in direct democracy—that is, to vote on ballot initiatives—are easy to overlook. But initiatives on state ballots across the country give voters the chance to have their say on a number of important issues, from shooting down healthcare reform, to radically restricting reproductive rights, to banning affirmative action.
These initiatives don’t all cater to the Right, however: possibly the most high-profile ballot initiative of this election season is California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana possession for anyone over 21 and allow the government to tax and regulate its consumption.
Prop 19’s supporters, including The Nation, argue that it would save the state the $1.7 billion currently going into enforcement each year, make marijuana consumption safer, and allow police to focus on more serious crimes—potentially decreasing drug-related violence at the border and curbing the drug war’s disproportionate affect on minority communities.
The bill’s opponents argue that if Prop 19 is passed, “it will be legal for a driver to get high right before taking the wheel”—which is puzzling, considering alcohol consumption has long been legal, while driving under the influence is not. Too bad polls show a slim majority of California voters aren’t keen on the measure. Fifty-one percent of all likely voters are opposed to it as of October 22, according to a USC/LA Times poll, though 55 percent of likely voters under 29 are in support.
Though no other state is going quite as far as the Golden State, voters in Arizona, Oregon and South Dakota will all find initiatives to legalize medical marijuana on their ballot.
Initiatives discussed: Proposition 19, California; Proposition 203, Arizona; Measure 74, Oregon; Measure 13, South Dakota
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