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article imageMarijuana issues highlight Midterm election ballot initiatives

By Nate Smith     Nov 4, 2014 in Politics
Political commentators spanning the ideological spectrum are increasingly at odds over whether America is a "center-right," or "center-left," country, and are often want to wave elections results around as proof-positive of their pre-conceived notion.
However, with only a few meaningful congressional and senate races at stake -- and even fewer still that remain competitive at this 11th hour -- a better metric on the attitude of the country this election cycle are state-level ballot initiatives that cut across an ideological divide, specifically ongoing efforts to legalize, or otherwise decriminalize marijuana.
Voters in Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia decide today whether or not legalize cannabis consumption for recreational purposes.
Similarly, voters in Florida will decide whether or not permit marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Marijuana meets hyper-local politics in Michigan, as voters there in 10 communities will decide if marijuana should be decriminalized in small doses, in a move that would make getting caught with pot not unlike receiving a traffic citation.
Local cannabis questions are also on the ballot in New Mexico, Maine and the U.S.-controlled territory of Guam.
This is actually the second crack at legal weed in Oregon. In 2012, voters there rejected a recreational-use measure, even as constituents in Colorado and Washington state were approving similar initiatives.
Generic nationwide polling of marijuana support is at its highest levels ever.
Fifty-eight percent of Americans now favor legalizing marijuana, according to a 2013 poll released by Gallup. That figure represents a 10 percent jump since legalization issues were approved in Colorado and Washington.
Driving this new wave of support are millennials, who tend to support legalization by about a two-thirds margin, according to that poll from last year.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Americans 65 and older are the only demographic that sill oppose legal cannabis.
That dichotomy may play a big role in the success or failure of Tuesday's marijuana measures.
According to a poll from Oregon Public Radio released earlier this month, support for legalization efforts there were at 52 percent in favor, versus 41 percent against.
Another recent survey of likely Oregon voters found the race closer, and even supporters trailing opponents 44-46 percent.
That survey, conducted by Stuart Elway research group, indicates that 70 percent of the likely electorate will be 51 or older.
Still another poll there pegged the majority of the electorate (58 percent) as at least 45.
Other controversial statewide ballot issues this election include minimum wage questions for voters in South Dakota, Nebraska, Arkansas, Illinois and Alaska; and anti-abortion "personhood" initiatives in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee.
Go figure, two years removed from legalizing pot, Colorado voters may also wind up enacting some of the most strict abortion rules in the country.
The questions abounds: Is America center-left, or center-right?
More about Politics, 2014 midterm elections, statewide ballot initiatives, legal weed, marijuana legalization
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