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Legalized marijuana, same-sex marriage make gains in ballot initiatives

Some 176 ballot measures in 38 states included historic wins for gay marriage and legalized marijuana (Amendment 64 in Colorado), as well as votes in four red states to rein in ‘Obamacare.’

Tuesday had a list of controversial and in some ways profound ballot measures around the country.

Among them: Same-sex marriage, legalizing recreational marijuana, physician-assisted suicide, the death penalty, abortion, and genetically modified food.

According to vote projections, measures allowing adults to use marijuana were approved in Colorado and Washington State but defeated in Oregon. In Massachusetts, voters overwhelmingly approved legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, joining 17 other states that already have done so.

State-level approval of marijuana for any purpose — medically or recreationally — is sure to set up a legal dispute with federal authorities, since federal law recognizes no legal use for the drug. Federal agents have cracked down on medical marijuana growers and sellers in California and other states.

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“The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said in a statement. “This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

Alabama and Montana voted against allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

On another controversial issue, voters in Maine and Maryland approved same-sex marriage, and judging by exit polls, Washington State was expected to do so as well. It was the first time voters had approved gay marriage, which has been defeated in 31 states over the years.

“This is a landmark election for marriage equality and we will forever look back at this year as a critical turning point in the movement for full citizenship for LGBT people,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. “This is a milestone night for the simple truth that when Americans are presented with the real lives of their friends and neighbors, they have no choice but to vote for their equality. It is the momentum reflected in poll after poll that shows a growing majority for marriage equality across the country.”

Gay rights advocates also cheered the victory of US Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) of Wisconsin, who defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) to become the first openly gay member of the US Senate. Senator-elect Baldwin replaces retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat.

In all, there were 176 ballot measures in 38 states, according to the Initiative & Referendum Institute in Los Angeles. Some of the other results:

Floridians voted to ban the use of public funds for abortion.

Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Wyoming voted to limit the Affordable Care Act – “Obamacare” — in their states.

In Massachusetts, a measure of the type in Oregon and Washington State approving physician-assisted suicide appeared headed for defeat.

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Gambling in Maryland will soon include table games like blackjack and a casino near the nation’s capital, after voters on Tuesday approved an expansion measure that generated the most expensive political advertising campaign in the state’s history, the Associated Press reported. Table games like craps and poker could begin early next year at Maryland’s three existing casinos and at two expected to be built later. Because the question also passed in Prince George’s County, a casino can also be built near the nation’s capital.

Illinois voters rejected a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have made it more difficult to expand public employee retirement benefits.

Meanwhile, a closely eyed ballot measure to label food containing genetically modified ingredients was trailing by a double-digit margin in California. More than a dozen states this year introduced GMO labeling bills, but all failed. A citizen’s petition to mark genetically engineered foods nationwide is pending before the US Food and Drug Administration, reports the AP.