Pot, abortion and bear-baiting: Americans vote

2014-11-04 21:47
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Los Angeles - Abortion, marijuana, gay marriage, GMOs and bear-baiting: Americans voted on Tuesday on a welter of local and national issues, on the sidelines of the US midterm elections.

Voters went to the polls to renew Congress and elect governors in 36 states, but in cities and states across the country they also made choices in a plethora of referendums.

Should marijuana be legalised? Voters in four states - Alaska, Florida, Oregon and Washington state - were asked the question, be it to authorise possession, tax, sale or consumption of pot for medical or recreational purposes.

It is still against federal law to consume, sell and possess cannabis, but some 20 states have either partially or fully decriminalised it - notably including Colorado and Washington state, which took the biggest steps last year.

Same-sex marriage, which is also in the process of being legalised by many US states, was put to a referendum in Arizona, which amended its constitution to outlaw it five years ago.

Another burning question: the minimum wage. Fixed at $7.25 by federal law, it was the subject of votes in five states (Arkansas, Alaska, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota) and some 20 towns and cities.

Another hot button issue, abortion, was on the ballot in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee.

The right to bear arms was voted on in Alabama, Missouri and Washington state. There were two opposing ballots in Washington state, one making it tougher to buy a gun by imposing background checks, and the other seeking to ban exactly that measure.

Eight towns and cities voted on anti-fracking proposals. The extraction of oil and gas from shale via hydraulic fracturing has boosted US oil production, but critics fear its impact on the environment.

Several towns and cities voted on measures against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Referendums in the western US states of Oregon and Colorado sought to make it mandatory to label food containing GMOs.

Frozen pizza

Supporters of GMO labeling face powerful opposition from agrochemical giants like DuPont, which have spent millions of dollars fighting the referendum proposals.

On the health front, Arizonans voted Tuesday on a proposal to allow terminally-ill patients access to experimental medicines.

On a lighter note, in California a measure proposed in San Francisco and Berkeley would impose a tax of one cent per centiliter on sugary beverages, in a bid to combat obesity and other health problems.

Time magazine says the food industry has spent more than $10m to persuade the voters of San Francisco and Berkeley to reject the proposal.

The Libertarian Party is also opposed, warning darkly of such unintended consequences as smuggling, tax evasion and violence, which it contends is what happened when cigarette taxes went up.

Voters in Alaska were consulted on a proposal to ban mining activity if it endangers wild salmon.

Also aiming to protect animals, the East Coast state of Maine was asked to ban bear-baiting, and in particular the use of cold pizza and donuts as lures.

On a similar note, voters in Michigan were asked to establish wolf-hunting seasons.

Finally, in the puritanical Bible Belt, Arkansas was asked to vote for or against the production and sale of alcohol, in a state where some areas are still "dry," more than 80 years after the repeal of Prohibition.

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