Monday, November 07, 2016

VOTE 2016 - Beyond the Presidency

"Legal pot, gun control and other big ballot initiatives to watch" PBS NewsHour 11/2/2016


SUMMARY:  There are more than 150 ballot initiatives this year at the state level, capable of creating huge change for voters.  Nine states are voting on the legalization of recreational or medical marijuana.  Other measures concern gun control, the minimum wage, and the death penalty.  John Yang learns more from John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Josh Altic of Ballotpedia for more.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Let's focus now on a different election story, ballot initiatives and measures at the state and local level.  It's a big year for it.  There are more than 150 at the state level this year.

John Yang has the story.

JOHN YANG (NewsHour):  Next Tuesday, legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational use is on the ballot in nine states.  And voters across the country will also decide other contentious issues, including gun control, health care and prescription drug costs, the death penalty, and the minimum wage.

We take a look at some of these issues with two people who are following them very closely.

John Myers is the Sacramento bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times, and Josh Altic tracks ballot issues for Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan online political encyclopedia.

Josh, John, thank you both for joining us.

John, let me start with you.

California, as usual, has a long list of ballot initiatives that voters have to decide next Tuesday.  And let's start with marijuana.  California voters approved marijuana for medicinal use in 1996, and rejected it for recreational use in 2010.  Why is it back?  And what's different this time?

JOHN MYERS, Los Angeles Times:  Yes, I mean, it's a good question.  Why is it back?

We're the largest state in the country.  And I think there has been the sense that there is a sea change in the way Californians view this, I think, in some ways mirrored in other parts of the country as well, and certainly efforts in Colorado and Washington state have gotten a lot of attention here in California.

This measure, I will tell you, is drafted much differently than the measure that failed in 2010.  It's more detailed.  It has more details about taxes that are imposed at the state and local level on marijuana.  And it's backed by a couple of very big people.

The Lieutenant Governor of the State, Gavin Newsom; and Sean Parker, the impresario behind Napster and Facebook in Silicon Valley, a wealthy financier, have both gotten behind it.  It has a lot of institutional support.  And the polling shows that it is doing pretty well.

How you get to legalization, I think California is watching these other state, but at this point, it looks voters are probably going to say yes.

JOHN YANG:  And, Josh, what other states is this on the ballot in?  And this is — we see oftentimes ballot initiates leading the way for federal law, federal policy.  It's still illegal at the federal level.  Could this be the tipping point this year?

JOSH ALTIC, Ballotpedia:  There has been a lot of discussion about whether this is the year that will really push towards removal of federal prohibition.

You have it — so, 80 million people live in states this year where marijuana laws could be basically made more accessible to every person.  So, you have recreational marijuana in Nevada, Arizona.  Those are the big ones.  Maine, Massachusetts, and, of course, California.

And while California stands kind of above the rest as a really significant landmark for the tipping point idea, the fact that you have five other states, more than we have ever seen on the ballot at the same time, considering the issue is an indication that this could be a really key year for the policy.

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