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Election 2012: How pot, porn and punishment initiatives fared with voters

Amanda Jetter celebrates along with others attending an Amendment 64 watch party in a bar after a local television station announced the marijuana amendment's passage, in Denver, Colo., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

Amanda Jetter celebrates with others attending an "Amendment 64 watch party" in Denver, upon learning that Coloradans passed a measure to legalize the purchase and possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by people 21 or older, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley
(CBS) Smoke it if you got it. That was the message voters in Colorado and Washington sent Tuesday when they approved state ballot initiatives effectively legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults - the first time such a law has passed in the United States.

Across the country, voters Tuesday also weighed in on other matters of criminal justice, including the death penalty, assisted suicide, condom use on porn sets, and the three-strikes sentencing law. Here's how these measures went down...or up:

MARIJUANA

Recreational Use:

The Denver Post reports that Colorado's Amendment 64 passed with just over 54 percent of the vote. The new law allows that "the use of marijuana should be legal for persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol." The measure allows adults to buy and possess up to one ounce of the drug, and to grow up to six marijuana plants in an "enclosed, locked space."

In Washington, the Seattle Times reports that Initiative 502 passed with approximately 55 percent of the vote. The state's law "authorizes the state liquor control board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age and older, and add[s] a new threshold for driving under the influence of marijuana."

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, known as Measure 80, failed to obtain the votes to win, with just 45 percent of the electorate voting to pass, according to The Crime Report.

In a statement issued after the votes were counted in Colorado and Washington, Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a non-profit advocacy group that supports the reform of drug laws, touted the "historic significance" of the states' moves away from marijuana prohibition.

"This is now a mainstream issue," Nadelmann stated, continuing, "with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies."

Marijuana, however, remains an illegal, schedule one narcotic under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Although President Obama's Department of Justice released a memo in 2009 indicating it would not be an administration priority to raid medical marijuana dispensaries complying with state law, the raids haven't stopped.

In a statement issued this morning, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency affirmed that the agency's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act "remains unchanged":

"The Department of Justice is reviewing the ballot initiatives and we have no additional comment at this time."

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper told CBS News anchor Scott Pelley on Tuesday night that he was mindful of the federal law and anticipated challenges in implementing the initiative.

"I'm not sure we can make it as legal as the voters would like us to do," he told Pelley. "But clearly the will of the voters spoke."

Medical marijuana:

Voters in Massachusetts passed a medical marijuana initiative, with 63 percent voting in favor of Question 3. The law reads: "The citizens of Massachusetts intend that there should be no punishment under state law for qualifying patients, physicians and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana."

Read more about Massachusetts' medical marijuana law at CBS News Health.

The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act was narrowly defeated, with 51 percent voting against and 49 percent in favor, according to CBS affiliate KTHV.

DEATH PENALTY

A California initiative seeking to repeal that state's death penalty and replace it with life inprison was defeated, with 53 percent of voters rejecting the measure, according to The Crime Report. California voters reinstated the death penalty in 1978. The state has executed 13 people since then, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., told Crimesider that he was not surprised that voters failed to repeal capital punishment, but that the close result "is definitely a sign that the death penalty is on the defensive, on the decline."

Although the governors of several states, including Illinois and Oregon, have issued moratoriums on executions, Dieter says that the last time a state removed the death penalty by referendum was in Oregon in 1967. Since then, he says, no one had even tried.

THREE-STRIKES SENTENCING LAW

Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 36, a ballot measure amending the state's harsh three-strikes sentencing law. Under the original law, passed by ballot initiative in 1994, an offender convicted of a third felony received a mandatory sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison. The law has come under intense criticism for inflicting severe punishments on perpetrators of relatively non-serious crimes, and contributing to California's notoriously overcrowded prison system.

On Tuesday, 68 percent of voters approved the initiative which changes the sentencing scheme to allow for a lighter sentence on a third felony if that felony is not "violent or serious."

The initiative states that "repeat offenders convicted of non-violent, non-serious crimes like shoplifting and simple drug possession will receive twice the normal sentence instead of a life sentence."

PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE

By a margin of fewer than 60,000 votes, the Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts rejected a so-called "Death With Dignity" law that would have allowed a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a patient with a terminal illness who wishes to end his or her life.

"To come so close is disappointing," says Peg Sandeen, the executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center. "But this is a great opportunity to have everyone in Massachusetts have this conversation."

Physician-assisted suicide was approved by voters in Oregon in 1994 and Washington state in 2008, and defeated in Maine in 2002, according to Sandeen.

CONDOM USE ON ADULT FILM SETS

With 56 percent of the vote, Southern Californians voted for the "Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act," a ballot initiative mandating that adult film producers in Los Angeles County obtain a permit from the health department and submit to random checks to assure performers are using condoms, reports CBS Los Angeles.

The act, known as Measure B, also requires the following message be displayed on sets: The use of condoms is required for all acts of anal or vaginal sex during the production of adult films to protect performers from sexually transmitted infections.

For more on Measure B go to CBS News Health.


  • Julia Dahl

    Julia Dahl writes about crime and justice for CBSNews.com

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