Up in Smoke: Marijuana, Abortion, Anti-Tax Ballot Measures Fail

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A slew of controversial state ballot measures received mixed verdicts Tuesday, as voters dealt blows to legalized marijuana and an indirect ban on abortion while approving a "right to hunt" and bans on federal health care mandates in several states.

Less than half of the 160 measures on the ballots in 37 states were approved.

All proposals to raise revenue through new taxes, fees or surcharges failed, while Washington state voters reversed tax hikes passed by the legislature earlier this year, and reimposed a two-thirds vote requirement for legislators seeking future increases. An Indiana measure to cap state property tax rates was also approved.

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While the majority of measures dealt with fiscal policies, several addressed hot-button social issues that have grabbed headlines in recent elections.

Here's a look at how some of the most noteworthy ballot measures fared:


Efforts to expand legalized use of marijuana, including for medical purposes, all failed Tuesday.

California's Proposition 19, which would have fully legalized the cultivation, possession and transportation of marijuana failed by 54 percent to 46 percent.

Meanwhile, majorities of Oregon, Arizona and South Dakota voters rejected measures to allow legalized use of marijuana. Fourteen states currently allow medical use of marijuana.


For the second time in as many years, Coloradoans rejected an indirect attempt to illegalize abortion by redefining a human embryo as a "person."

The "Fetal Personhood" Amendment 62, which would have bestowed personhood to every human being from "the beginning of the biological development of that human being," failed with 70 percent of voters opposed.

Health Care Mandate

Arizona and Oklahoma approved state constitutional amendments to block enforcement of federal health care law mandates and allow individuals and businesses to choose whether to have or provide health insurance.

A similar measure was rejected in Colorado, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Right to Hunt

Three southern states -- Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee -- successfully passed amendments to specify a state constitutional right to hunt and fish.

But a so-called "right to hunt" measure failed in Arizona, which became the first state to reject such a measure.

Twelve states now have constitutional protections for the right to hunt and fish.


California's Proposition 23, which would have suspended stiff greenhouse gas emissions caps until unemployment in the state drops below 5.5 percent, failed.

The measure, which had the support of major oil companies, had been vehemently opposed by outgoing Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a mix of high-profile celebrities and business leaders like Bill Gates and Google's Sergey Brin.

State Name Change

Rhode Island voters overwhelmingly opted not to change their state's lengthy formal name – Rhode Island and Providence Plantations -- to the abbreviated version as it's now commonly known: simply, Rhode Island. Question 1 failed 78 percent to 22 percent.

Sharia, International Law

Oklahoma voters approved a ballot measure prohibited state courts from considering Islamic Sharia law, or international law, when deciding cases.

Affirmative Action

Arizona voters banned preferential treatment, also known as affirmative action, for minority applicants for state jobs.

Five other states -- California, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington and Colorado -- have also approved anti-affirmative action measures.

Power to Recall

Californians approved a recall in 2003 to oust then Gov. Gray Davis. Now Illinois voters, weathered by scandals of the Rod Blagojavich administration, have assumed the authority to boot their governor, too. A constitutional amendment passed Tuesday with 66 percent of the vote establishes the right to recall a governor.

Extraterrestrial Life

Denver voters rejected Initiative 300 that would have established an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission to collect and share evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth and assess the risks and benefits of making contact with those aliens. Only 17 percent of voters endorsed creation of a commission.