FILE - In this June 10, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, left, receives congratulations from fellow Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, center, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, after the Assembly approved her measure to place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot to let voters decide if the state should overturn its ban on affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

FILE - In this June 10, 2020, file photo, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, left, receives congratulations from fellow Assembly members Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, center, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, after the Assembly approved her measure to place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot to let voters decide if the state should overturn its ban on affirmative action programs, at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

Push to relax drug laws gains big victories on state ballots

Oregon voters also approved a measure making the state the first to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms

A nationwide push to relax drug laws took a significant step forward Tuesday as more states legalized marijuana for adults and voters made Oregon the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of street drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The drug measures were among 120 proposed state laws and constitutional amendments that were on the ballot in 32 states. They touched on an array of issues that have roiled politics in recent years — voting rights, racial inequalities, abortion, taxes and education, to name a few.

But none directly dealt with the dominant theme of 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic. That’s because the process to put measures on the ballot began, in most cases, before the virus surged to the forefront.

The Oregon drug initiative will allow people arrested with small amounts of hard drugs to avoid going to trial, and possible jail time, by paying a $100 fine and attending an addiction recovery program. The treatment centres will be funded by revenues from legalized marijuana, which was approved in Oregon several years ago.

“Today’s victory is a landmark declaration that the time has come to stop criminalizing people for drug use,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which backed the measure.

The proposal was endorsed by the Oregon Democratic Party, as well as some nurses and physician associations. The Oregon Republican Party had denounced the drug decriminalization measure as radical, and some prosecutors called it reckless.

Oregon voters also approved a measure making the state the first to legalize the therapeutic use of psychedelic mushrooms.

Voters in New Jersey and Arizona approved measures legalizing marijuana for adults age 21 and older. In New Jersey, the Legislature now will have to pass another measure setting up the new marijuana marketplace. The Arizona measure also allows people convicted of certain marijuana crimes to seek expungement of their records. Passage signalled a change of attitudes, after Arizona voters there narrowly defeated a legal pot proposal in 2016.

Recreational marijuana measures also were ahead in the polls in Montana and narrowly leading in South Dakota. Separate medical marijuana initiatives passed in South Dakota and Mississippi.

A decade ago, recreational marijuana was illegal in all 50 states. Voters allowed it in Colorado and Washington in 2012, sparking a movement that already included 11 states and Washington, D.C., heading into Tuesday’s elections. Supporters hope additional victories, especially in conservative states, could build pressure for Congress to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Two states considered anti-abortion amendments with different results.

Louisiana voters passed a measure asserting there is no state constitutional right to abortion — something that could come into play if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns its Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

In Colorado, by contrast, voters defeated a measure to prohibit abortions after 22 weeks unless the pregnant woman’s life is endangered. Previous Colorado ballot initiatives to limit abortion also failed in 2008, 2010 and 2014.

Several states also were considering measures affecting voting rights.

Virginia voters passed a constitutional amendment taking power away from members of the Democratic-led Legislature to draw voting districts for themselves and members of Congress based on census results. It instead will create a bipartisan commission of lawmakers and citizens to develop a redistricting plan that the Legislature could approve or reject, but not change.

Virginia is the sixth state in the past two general election cycles to pass measures intended to prevent gerrymandering — a process in which politicians draw voting districts to benefit themselves or their political parties. Voters in Missouri, which passed a redistricting reform measure in 2018, voted Tuesday on whether to roll back key parts of it before it can be used next year.

The Missouri measure, which remained undecided in a close vote, would repeal a nationally unique model using a nonpartisan demographer to draw state House and Senate districts to achieve “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness.” Republicans who control the Legislature put forth a new ballot measure this year that would return redistricting duties to a pair of bipartisan commissions and drop “partisan fairness” and “competitiveness” to the end of the criteria.

In Florida, voters approved a measure gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. The measure puts Florida in line with at least seven other states — California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — and Washington, D.C., which already have enacted laws to gradually boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

In Mississippi, voters approved a proposal for a new state flag with a magnolia design. The vote came after legislators in June ended the use of a flag bearing a Confederate battle emblem. In Rhode Island, whose official name is “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” residents in a close vote were deciding whether to eliminate the final three words, which some say evoke a legacy of slavery.

Tax proposals were on the ballot in more than a dozen states. Tobacco tax hikes passed in Colorado and Oregon. Colorado voters also approved a slight income tax cut. Still undecided were a proposed property tax increase on California businesses and higher income taxes on the wealthy in Illinois and Arizona. The additional tax revenue in Arizona would fund pay raises for teachers and other school personnel.

Another of the many California ballot issues would repeal a 1996 initiative that prohibits affirmative action programs granting preferential treatment based on race, sex, colour, ethnicity or national origin in public employment, education or contracting.

David A. Lieb, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

U.S. election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UBC Sports Hall of Famer Carrie (Watson) Watts (far right, front row) helped lead the UBC Thunderbirds to the 2004 national championship, their first since 1974. She served as assistant coach a few years after graduation. (Photo/UBC)
Agassiz-born basketball star inducted into UBC Sports Hall of Fame

Carrie (Watson) Watts helped lead the team to their first championship in decades

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – checkpoint at Manning Park

Four checkpoints are set up Thursday, May 6 around the province

Winnie Peters, centre, spoke about the loss of two husbands over the years, both of who were murdered. The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls event in Hope on May 5, 2021 included prayers for men who have been killed as well. (Jessica Peters/ Hope Standard)
Red dresses hang in Hope’s Memorial Park in remembrance

Group gathers for National Day of Awareness of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

The AHL Board of Governors has approved the Vancouver Canucks decision to move their franchise to Abbotsford. (File photo)
AHL approves Canucks’ franchise relocation to Abbotsford

Board of Governors approves move, season set to start on Oct. 15

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read