Election 2012: How Pot, Porn and Punishment Initiatives Fared with Voters
Voters in Massachusetts passed a medical marijuana initiative, with 63 percent voting in favor of Question 3. The law reads: "The citizens of Massachusetts intend that there should be no punishment under state law for qualifying patients, physicians and health care professionals, personal caregivers for patients, or medical marijuana treatment center agents for the medical use of marijuana."
A California initiative seeking to repeal that state's death penalty and replace it with life inprison was defeated, with 53 percent of voters rejecting the measure, according to The Crime Report. California voters reinstated the death penalty in 1978. The state has executed 13 people since then, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
Richard Dieter, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., told Crimesider that he was not surprised that voters failed to repeal capital punishment, but that the close result "is definitely a sign that the death penalty is on the defensive, on the decline."
Although the governors of several states, including Illinois and Oregon, have issued moratoriums on executions, Dieter says that the last time a state removed the death penalty by referendum was in Oregon in 1967. Since then, he says, no one had even tried.
THREE-STRIKES SENTENCING LAW
Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of Proposition 36, a ballot measure amending the state's harsh three-strikes sentencing law. Under the original law, passed by ballot initiative in 1994, an offender convicted of a third felony received a mandatory sentence of 25 years-to-life in prison. The law has come under intense criticism for inflicting severe punishments on perpetrators of relatively non-serious crimes, and contributing to California's notoriously overcrowded prison system.
On Tuesday, 68 percent of voters approved the initiative which changes the sentencing scheme to allow for a lighter sentence on a third felony if that felony is not "violent or serious."
The initiative states that "repeat offenders convicted of non-violent, non-serious crimes like shoplifting and simple drug possession will receive twice the normal sentence instead of a life sentence."
By a margin of fewer than 60,000 votes, the Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts rejected a so-called "Death With Dignity" law that would have allowed a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a patient with a terminal illness who wishes to end his or her life.
"To come so close is disappointing," says Peg Sandeen, the executive director of the Death With Dignity National Center. "But this is a great opportunity to have everyone in Massachusetts have this conversation."
Physician-assisted suicide was approved by voters in Oregon in 1994 and Washington state in 2008, and defeated in Maine in 2002, according to Sandeen.