5. Arizona Proposition 205
Coming in at number five on the list, we have the State of Arizona‘s Proposition 205, which was an initiative to legalize Marijuana for adults aged 21 and older in the state. The measure, if passed, would have legalized recreational Marijuana use in Arizona, although people still can’t use the drug in public places and or allow minors access. Said adults would have been able to possess and transport one ounce of Marijuana or less and grow up to 6 Marijuana plants in their homes without violating any State law. The measure would also have established a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, which would be used to regulate and control the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of Marijuana. There would also be a 15 percent tax levied on said substance, and the revenue coming from such a tax would become deposited in a Marijuana fund and distributed to the department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, the Department of Revenue, localities where Marijuana businesses exist, school districts and charter schools, and also the Arizona Department of Health Services. The voting results after the election, however, show that the proposition was denied 52.1% to 47.9%.
Along the way, controversy erupted when Insys therapeutics, a synthetic Fentanyl painkiller producer, sent a large donation to the Arizonans for Responsible drug policy on August 31, 2016 totaling $500,000. The ARDP being the group that opposes the Marijuana legalization initiative.
However in a briefing filed with the securities and exchange commission on August 17, 2016, Insys Therapeutics argued that legalized Marijuana would limit the “commercial success” of one of the company’s products, Dronabinol, a synthetic Cannabinoid that the company was developing. An excerpt from the briefing is as follows:
Currently, dronabinol is one of a limited number of FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoids in the United States. Therefore in the United States, dronabinol products do not have to compete with natural cannabis or non-synthetic cannabinoids such as GW Pharmaceutical’s Sativex®. Literature has been published arguing the benefits of marijuana over dronabinol. Moreover, irrespective of its potential medical applications, there is some support in the United States for legalization of marijuana. If marijuana or non-synthetic cannabinoids were legalized in the United States, the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.
Insys was criticized for this briefing, by the leader of the Campaign to regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, J.P Holyoak, who runs the group that is in support of the Marijuana legalization efforts in Arizona, who commented that “You have a company using profits from the sale of what has been called ‘the most potent and dangerous opioid on the market’ to prevent adults from using a far less harmful substance.” The leader of the CRMA also said that:” It appears they are trying to kill a non – pharmaceutical market for Marijuana in order to line their own pockets.” In response, a campaign consultant for the opponents of CRMA, Adam Deguire made the argument that the pro – legalization campaign was ” overwhelmingly financed by Marijuana special interest groups who stand to make millions from its passage.” He also stated that his campaign is “grateful to have the strong financial support from many in the Arizona business community.”
The outcome of the vote on proposition 205 might also have impacted drug trafficking and Cartel activity in the State of Arizona. The media held differing views on the subject, with Fortune magazine titling one article from the Associated Press: “Legalizing Marijuana in Arizona could strengthen drug Cartels“, and PBS News Hour titling the exact same article: “Here’s how legal pot in Arizona could upend the drug Cartels.” Generally, two different points of view were circulated, one being that legalized Marijuana would strengthen cartel power by encouraging them to divert their resources into selling even more dangerous drugs; and the second being that legalization of Marijuana would undermine Cartels, as it would enable the legal market to upstage the underground one.
According to the Political Director on the Marijuana policy project, Carlos Alfaro, legalization of Marijuana in other states, such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington, have been linked with the decreased amount in seizures of the drug along the border with Mexico. Apparently, Cartels now have to compete with legitimate businesses in the U.S., that supply more pure product, and have regulations that are on the shelf, and also with their prices. Roughly sixty percent of the Cartel’s income is derived from Marijuana. What Proposition 205 aimed to do, was to take that income and allocate it into the development of the local U.S. communities. Statistics from U.S. Customs and Border protection show Marijuana dropping 39 percent nation wide from 2011 to 2015 and 28 percent in the Tucson sector. On the other hand, in 2015, Border Patrol seized 800,000 pounds of Marijuana in Arizona.
Others, however disagree with this view. Notably, Paul A. Beeson, chief of the Tucson sector of the U.S. Border Patrol stated: “Cartels are seeking to increase market share in other controlled substances, notably heroin and Methamphetamine.” In 2015, over 4,100 pounds of Methamphetamine were seized in the Tucson sector, an increase of 46 percent in 2 years. Sergeant Jim Gerhardt, a drug investigator based in Denver, has stated that as Marijuana is legal in Colorado but not other states, it has become an excellent hiding place for drugs by the Cartels and other organizations. The Sergeant also argued that if people can legally grow Marijuana in their own places of residence then it’s that much harder for law Enforcement to detect the presence of the drug. And that’s why drug organizations come to Colorado, they go there so they can hide in plain sight, they will do the same in Arizona should the same opportunity present itself.
4. Colorado Amendment 70
Number four on the list goes to Colorado’s Amendment 70, which concerns the increase of the state’s minimum wage, from $8.31 to $9.30 on January 1, 2017, and then to increase the amount by 90 cents each year until it reaches $12.00 in 2020. It will also be adjusted for annual cost of living increases after that.
The cost of living in Colorado has been climbing steadily over the past decade, but the current minimum wage hasn’t kept up with that cost. As of right now, full time minimum wage workers make only about 17,000 a year, which averages to about 300 per week after deducting taxes, that’s not enough for a person, much less a family, to make ends meet. This in fact causes many full time minimum low wage workers to seek government assistance. Research has shown that increasing the minimum wage has little to no effect on the employment of low wage workers and raising the minimum wage could in fact stimulate consumer demand and economic activity, as the workers in question spend their surplus income.
The initiative was passed 55.05% to 44.95% following the November 8, 2016 election.
And then we arrive at number three of the top five, which is given to the California Proposition 63, which was designed to enforce background checks for ammunition purchases and impose a large capacity ammunition magazine ban. If approved, it would have required (1) Ammunition dealers to check with the California Department of Justice that individuals seeking to buy ammunition are not prohibited persons at the time of purchase. (2) Ammunitions dealers, both individual and business – wise, to obtain a one year license from the department of Justice to sell ammunition. (3) Removed the exemption for owners who purchased large clip magazines prior to the year 2000 to continue ownership of said magazines. (4) Gave courts the authority to inform prohibited individuals they must turn over their firearms over to local law enforcement, and or sell them back to dealers, or entrust to them for storage. (5) Prohibited residents from bringing ammunition purchased out of state into California, without first having delivered it to a licensed Dealer for check up. (6) All dealers of ammunitions and all firearm ammunition owners report thefts and or losses within 48 hours and five days, respectively. (7) All thefts of guns now be treated as a felony, even firearms valued at less than $950.
All of the above makes it that much harder to commit gun related atrocities, even for the determined killers, and can be expected to reduce California’s annual gun deaths and or gun death rate.
This initiative was also approved following the election, with 62.76% of voters voting “Yes”, and 37.24% of voters voting “No”.
2. Washington D.C. Statehood referendum
And now we have number two on the list, the Washington D.C. Statehood referendum. This referendum asked for voter’s opinion on whether or not the District of Columbia as we know it should be converted into a new State and admitted to the Union as such. It also would have created a new state constitution for this new state entity, called the state of New Columbia. The referendum would also guarantee that, should Congress approve of the petition to be sent by the Washington D.C. city council, that the State of New Columbia would be governed by an elected representative form of government, complete with a Governor, state courts and and a legislative assembly. This new state would also have voting representation in the form of two U.S. senators and one House Representative.
The way things stand right now, the district of Columbia has no voice in the Senate, and has only one House of Representatives delegate who can only vote in procedural matters and in Congressional committees, but is unable to vote on the floor, despite the fact that Washington D.C. has a population of 672,228 and its residents pay federal taxes just like everyone else, more taxes, in fact than 22 other U.S. states. Also, the U.S. Congress interferes in local laws frequently, and the District of Columbia’s financial budget is subject to the approval of Congress.
D.C. residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of this measure on election day, at 86% yay votes versus 14 Percent nay votes.
1. Oklahoma State Question 776
And finally, for number one on the list, the Oklahoma State question 776, which is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would guarantee the state’s right to impose executions and set methods of execution. More specifically, the amendment will give the State legislature, as opposed to the judicial and or executive branches of government the authority to provide for any method of administering the death penalty not forbidden by the U.S. constitution. It would also prevent any death sentences already handed down from being blocked due to successful legal challenges to or changes in the method used by the state for execution. Creating the legal requirement that any death sentences remain in effect until a legal method of execution is determined. And finally, the amendment declares that the death penalty, when considered by itself, cannot be established to be cruel and unusual punishment, of course, this is to be considered aside from any rulings about the specific method of execution.
Oklahoma, which has the highest per capita execution rate of any U.S. state, is also the state responsible for the botched execution of Clayton Lockett, which eventually became a Supreme Court case. The case was brought by death row inmates who said the drug combination used by state executioners violated the eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The Amendment will create an entirely new section in the state’s constitution affirming the death penalty’s use while explicitly saying that it “shall not be deemed to be or constitute the infliction of cruel and unusual punishment.” Robert Dunham, executive director of the Death penalty information center, says that it would be the first time any state constitution would seek to prevent the state courts from enforcing constitutional prohibitions in capital cases. He also argued that it is a sign that the death penalty is in decline and is at risk of being repealed.
This legislatively referred constitutional amendment was approved following the election, with 66.36% of voters agreeing to the measure, and only 33.64% of voters protesting to it.