Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Sept. 21, 2021

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Pot, guns, gambling among ballot-measure topics

The Columbian

NEW YORK — The marijuana-legalization movement, which achieved historic victories two years ago, seeks further momentum Tuesday as voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., weigh in on ballot measures that would allow recreational use of pot by adults.

Other volatile issues on state ballots include gambling and abortion. A measure in Maine would ban the use of dogs, bait and traps for bear hunting, while two competing measures in Washington state give voters a choice on whether to expand background checks for gun sales.

In the 2012 general election, Washington state and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana use by adults, and they have subsequently implemented systems for regulating and taxing sales of pot.

The measures in Oregon and Alaska would likewise legalize retail sales of marijuana to anyone old enough to drink.

The measure in Washington, D.C., would make it legal to grow and possess marijuana, but not sell it. The campaign there has included a debate about race — the measure’s supporters say blacks in the city have been disproportionately targeted for marijuana arrests.

Florida voters will decide whether to make their state the 24th to allow marijuana use for medical reasons. The measure needs 60 percent approval to pass.

Whatever the outcome Tuesday, advocates of marijuana legalization already are planning to expand their campaign to California, the most populous state, in 2016.

Here’s a look at some other questions before voters Tuesday:


In three states, abortion-related measures have generated bitter debate, in part because supporters and opponents disagree over their potential impact.

In Colorado, a “personhood” amendment would add fetuses to those protected by the state’s criminal and wrongful death act. Opponents say it could lead to a ban on abortions; supporters say it’s intended to strengthen protections for pregnant women.

In North Dakota, Measure 1 would provide “the inalienable right to life” for humans at “any stage of development.” Supporters and opponents differ on what impact it might have on abortion regulations.

A measure in Tennessee would give state legislators more power to regulate abortion. Supporters say the proposed amendment is needed to prevent the courts from quashing reasonable restrictions; opponents fear it would lead to tough new laws that would jeopardize women’s access to abortions.


Voters will be asked to raise the minimum wage in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota.

Alaska would raise its minimum from $7.75 to $9.75 by 2016, and Arkansas would raise its minimum from $6.25 to $8.50 an hour by 2017. On Jan. 1, Nebraska’s minimum wage would rise from $7.25 to $8, and South Dakota’s from $7.25 to $8.50.


A measure in Massachusetts would repeal a 2011 law authorizing development of a slots parlor and up to three resort casinos. There are none in the state now.

Clyde Barrow, a leading academic authority on the casino industry, said a victory for the anti-casino forces would mark the first time — at least since the modern era of U.S. gambling began in 1931 — that a state reversed a major legislative decision to expand gambling.


A measure in Missouri — bitterly opposed by teachers’ unions — would tie teachers’ jobs and salaries to the performance of their students.

Teachers unions are supporting an initiative in Washington state that would reduce class size and increase staffing support in grades K-12. State financial experts believe the measure would eventually cost the state about $2 billion a year to pay for thousands more teachers and other school staff.


Washington has two competing gun-related measures. One seeks background checks for all gun sales and transfers, including private transactions. The other would prevent any such expansion covering purchases from private sellers.

Supporters of the expanded checks, bolstered by gifts from Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, have spent far more than the anti-expansion campaign.

Six states require universal background checks for all sales and transfers of firearms. Washington’s law, like the federal law, requires checks for sales or transfers by licensed dealers but not for purchases from private sellers.

If both measures on Washington’s ballot pass, it might be up to the courts to sort out the confusion.


Colorado and Oregon have measures that would require labeling of certain genetically modified foods. Each proposal would apply to raw and packaged foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering, but would not apply to food served in restaurants.

Opponents of the requirements — including food corporations and biotech firms — say mandatory labels would mislead consumers into thinking engineered ingredients are unsafe, which scientists have not proven.


Of the 147 ballot measures nationwide, the two that generated the most campaign spending were health-policy proposals in California. One measure would allow more expensive malpractice lawsuits and make California the first state requiring many doctors to submit to random drug and alcohol tests; the other would require the state insurance commissioner’s approval before health insurance rates could be changed.