The presidential poll was not the only thing on the ballot yesterday in the United States. Results of some down-ballot measures show a more liberal and reformist agenda still exists among tens of millions of Americans who voted in some states to tighten gun controls, in some cities and towns to tighten the sugar content of soft drinks, and in some states for freeing up of laws restricting personal use of marijuana.

Take California — the country’s biggest and at times most radical state — which legalised recreational marijuana. Some local areas voted to impose soda sugar taxes, while voters rejected a move to end capital punishment. Californians 21 and older will be able to possess, transport, buy and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes, individuals can grow as many as six plants. The measure would also allow retail sales of marijuana and impose a 15% tax. The measure only allows non-medical marijuana to be sold by state licensed businesses, and it gives the state until January 1, 2018, to begin issuing sales licences for recreational retailers. California legalised medical use dope years ago.

Voters in Nevada and Massachusetts also decided to legalise cannabis for recreational use, while voters in four more states — Florida, North Dakota and Arkansas and Montana — legalised the medical use of marijuana or eased restrictions. These four states all voted strongly for Donald Trump.

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Tighter restrictions on guns were approved by voters in California, Nevada and Washington. However voters in Maine rejected a measure to expand background checks. The wins will no doubt be challenged by Donald Trump’s bestest friend, the National Rifle Association.

State ballots produced a mixed outcome for smokers. Higher tobacco taxes were rejected in three states — Colorado, Missouri and North Dakota. But again California, the world’s sixth-largest economy, increased tobacco taxes by US$2.87 per pack of cigarettes and also expanded taxes on e-cigarettes. Governor Jerry Brown knows an easy budget revenue hole filler when he sees it (hence his support fro the dope law and its state sales tax). The sales tax rise won support from 63% of those who voted in California, so the issue was supported across party lines.

Voters in several cities in California and Colorado also approved new soda taxes, a move that doubles the number of cities that tax sweet drinks. Boulder, Colorado, and three cities in the California Bay Area — San Francisco, Albany and Oakland — all voted in the new tax on Tuesday. Previously, only Philadelphia and Berkeley had soda taxes.

Separately, voters in four states approved minimum wage increases — Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and Maine. And on the criminal justice front, voters in three states, California, Nebraska and Oklahoma, said they wanted to maintain the death penalty, by rejecting measures that would have ended capital punishment.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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