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Kommersant, Russia

The States Have Chosen
Their President and Marijuana

By Nikolai Zubov

Translated By Aleksandra J. Chlon

12 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer

Russia - Kommersant - Original Article (Russian)

The main intrigue of the past week — the U.S. presidential election — has pushed into the background the results of ballot measures concerning questions of equally vital importance.

Experts have already called the results of the presidential election in the U.S. a downfall of Barack Obama’s politics. The country has turned out to be even more split up; Obama himself has become the second president in the history of the U.S. to win an election the second time around with a smaller advantage and with less votes than the first time. Up until then, the only one who had managed it had been Woodrow Wilson in 1916, which was explained by voters’ attitude toward his decision to take part in WWI.

The tension of the last few weeks and days before voting has made observers forget that on Nov. 6, Americans did not just choose their president, senators and congressmen. In many states, ballot measures were put forward for the approval of voters, the results of which have turned out to be far more sensational than the outcome of the presidential election.

Straight away, the voters in two states — Washington and Colorado — voted for the legalization of marijuana for “recreational” purposes, not strictly as a medical measure. This put the authorities of the two states in an extremely awkward position — after all, nobody has abolished the federal law which recognizes marijuana as an illegal drug. Nevertheless, in the words of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper: “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will.”

Three states — Washington, Maine and Maryland — voted for the legalization of same-sex marriage. This decision, however, unlike the legalization of marijuana, may cause even more problems. Officially, a marriage contracted in one state is recognized in other states as well (the phenomenon of quick divorces in Nevada is a testament to that). But in practice, one should most likely not expect a same-sex marriage contracted in Maryland to be recognized in Alabama.

One more ballot measure directly related to president Obama and his reforms was put forward for the consideration of voters in Alabama and Wyoming. In both states, constitutional amendments prohibiting the authorities to force citizens to purchase medical insurance were accepted. Mandatory insurance is the cornerstone of the national health care system reform which was carried out under pressure from Obama and which acquired the name “Obamacare.” Even though constitutional amendments will not lead to the reform being completely abolished, they are being called one of the most painful attacks against it. “What the laws certainly do is to give state officials more of a basis to go to court and challenge the national health care law,” says Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University.

In the secret competition for the strangest ballot measure, the victory goes, without doubt, to the authors of the Arizona “Proposition 120,” which called for the Grand Canyon to be transferred from federal ownership to state ownership. According to the authors of the proposition, the presence of federal property on the state’s territory interferes with Arizona’s economic development. Opponents had said that Arizona is simply not able to take on itself all the maintenance costs of the Grand Canyon.

Proposition 120 was rejected. However, an amendment was introduced to the state’s constitution prohibiting criminals from demanding compensation for any health damages caused during their arrest.



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