DemDaily: Marijuana, Minimum Wage & Measures

November 18, 2016

Ballot initiatives have become an integral part of the electoral process - as a form of direct democracy, and as another avenue for impacting policy change outside of, or in spite of, the legislatures.

A Ballot Initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment.

Twenty-four states allow ballot initiatives or, depending on the state, "popular initiatives," "voter initiatives" or "citizen initiatives."

154 statewide initiatives were on the ballot November 8th, covering issues from statewide plastic bag bans, background checks for gun purchases, minimum wage and legalization of marijuana to healthcare, election and campaign finance reform.

2016 Initiative Highlights

Marijuana Legalization

Successful measures in California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada bring the total to 8 states + DC that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Only Arizona rejected the measure.

An additional 29 states - including now Arkansas, Florida, Montana and North Dakota - permit cannabis use for certain medical conditions, including cancer and HIV."

These initiatives were among the most expensive, including over $25 million spent in support of California's Yes On 64 campaign.

Minimum Wage
All four minimum wage initiatives on the ballot were approved, mandating increases by 2020 to Arizona/Prop 16: $12, Colorado/Amend 70: $12, Maine/Question 4: $12, and Washington State/Initiative #1433: $13.50.

In South Dakota voters vetoed Referred Law 20, the state legislature's attempt to decrease the minimum wage for those under 18. The minimum wage will remain at $8.50 per hour as opposed to the proposed $7.50.


Colorado voters rejected by a vote of 78% to 21% Amendment 69, which would have largely replaced the existing private or employer-provided health coverage in the state with a single-payer model that would coexist with other forms of government insurance such as Medicare.

California's Prop 61 was defeated as well. A victory for the pharmaceutical companies, the initiative would have barred state agencies from spending any more on prescription drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which requires at least a 24% discount on pharmaceuticals.

Campaign Finance
In a victory for campaign finance reform advocates, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to reinstate contribution limits for state elections (although, in a separate measure, passed a restrictive voter ID measure).

Voters in Washington and California approved anti-Citizens United resolutions and South Dakota voters approved IM-22 to increase transparency, reduce the power of lobbyists, strengthen enforcement measures, and empower everyday people through a small-dollar voucher program.


The initiative faced stiff opposition from the Koch-backed group there, to the tune of nearly $700,000.

Gun Control
The Background Checks for Gun Sales Measure was defeated in Maine, but similar measures were approved in California/Prop 63: Background Checks for Ammunition Sales, Nevada/Question 1: Background Checks for Gun Sales, and Washington/Initiative 1491: Individual Gun Access Prevention by Court Order.

Make change where you can!

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Kimberly Scott

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