Pot, Gay Marriage, Suicide: Issues On The Ballot Ignored By Presidential Campaigns

We’ve heard a lot about the economy and foreign affairs in this year’s presidential campaign, but several other hot topics are on the ballots for voters in the upcoming election. Voters will have a chance on Election Day to put in their two cents on issues ignored by the presidential candidates, such as death-penalty repeal, marijuana legalization, assisted suicide, and gay marriage.

In all, there are 176 measures on the Nov. 6 ballots in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California. Of those, many are technical proposals by legislators related to state finances and regulations. Others, however, are hot topics that have the power to change history – and US social policy.

Maine, Maryland, and Washington could become “the first to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote.” Thus far, the 32 states with referendums on gay marriage have rebuffed it. The six states that have legalized it did so “through legislation or court orders.” This election would be the first for popular vote to make gay marriage legal, setting a new precedent for how the Supreme Court will handle the issue.

Washington, with Oregon and Colorado, could become the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana. This would allow adults to possess small amounts of pot “under a regimen of state regulation and taxation.” While it doesn’t seem likely that the proposal will pass in Oregon, Washington and Colorado are both backed by “wealthy out-of-state donors,” and are led by popular opinion polls.

An emotionally-charged issue on this year’s ballot in Massachusetts is legalized physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts would join Oregon and Washington in allowing terminally ill patients to “obtain lethal doses of medication if doctors say they have six months or less to live.”

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This is “the most profound questions that an individual can wrestle with,” said the Rev. Tim Kutzmark, of Reading, Massachusetts. The Unitarian Universalist minister was against assisted suicide until he watched a close friend slowly die from Parkinson’s disease in 2002. He now supports the measure.

California has numerous attention-getting measures, one being abolishing the state’s death penalty. If approved, “more than 720 inmates on California’s death row would have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.”

What do you think about some of the issues on this year’s ballots? What is your stance on legalization of pot, gay marriage, assisted suicide, and banning the death penalty?