A Monumental Day for Marijuana and Other Measures

Marijuana was a big winner in Tuesday night’s elections, as voters in Massachusetts and Montana decided to legalize or expand its use for medicinal purposes, and two other states, Colorado and Washington, legalized the drug for recreational use. Six states in all put marijuana questions to voters on Tuesday’s ballots. Arkansas saw its medical marijuana ballot measure go down to defeat, while in Oregon, where voters were asked whether marijuana should be regulated like alcohol, votes were still being counted early Wednesday.

Massachusetts will join seventeen other states, including Montana, where the success of the medical marijuana referendum reversed restrictions put on medicinal use of the plant by the legislature last year. The victories may be short-lived, as the use of marijuana for medicinal use has faced challenges from federal authorities almost everywhere it is allowed locally. State referendums have no effect on federal laws against the possession of marijuana.

Liberal voters celebrated victories on other closely watched ballot measures around the country. In Maryland, voters approved Question 6, granting civil marriage to gay couples. The Maryland vote is the first time that a popular referendum on gay marriage has succeeded, after thirty-two other states had rejected direct appeals to voters. Advocates of gay marriage had high hopes for similar measures on the ballots in Maine and Washington this year. Minnesota voters will decide whether to ban gays from marrying with a constitutional amendment.

Maryland’s voters also approved a ballot question allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at community colleges and state universities if they meet certain academic and residency tests. In Florida and Montana, referendums that attempted to fight the Affordable Care Act by banning mandates to purchase health insurance failed. In all, 38 states had put 176 issues on the ballot to resolve questions from raising taxes to fund education to the expansion of gambling to the death penalty.

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