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Enormous Power of the People Sways the November Elections

From increased minimum wage wins to local fracking bans, the people made their voices heard this election.

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The vibrant movement against hydro-fracking also had significant success at the polls with bans on hyrdro-fracking enacted in Colorado and Ohio. In Colorado, three communities voted for a ban and one other will recount after a 38 vote defeat. The votes in Colorado overcame the pro-fracking governor, John Hickenlooper, as well as the money of the oil and gas industry.  In Ohio, one community passed a fracking ban initiative.

The community in Boulder, CO cleared a final significant hurdle in their campaign to end the use of coal and transition to renewable energy. Despite the massive amounts of money spent by Xcel Energy and its fake front group that pushed a harmful voter initiative, Boulder voted to create a municipal energy utility that will shift to clean, sustainable energy.  This has been a long-fought effort with the voters winning multiple initiatives in recent years. Xcel Energy was defeated by a well-organized and well-educated community. The vote was a landslide 66.5 percent to 31.1 percent. Now, the activists in Boulder are prepared to help other communities municipalize their energy and transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy.

Progress continues to be made in ending the war on marijuana. Portland, Maine became the first state in the Northeast to legalize the use of marijuana in a landslide vote; and three cities in Michigan also voted to legalize marijuana use.  Colorado voted in favor of taxes on commercial production and retail sales of marijuana (people can grow up to six plants for personal use without paying a tax), 65 percent of voters decided in favor of a 15 percent excise tax and a special sales tax of 10 percent on marijuana products sold by the state-licensed stores. Three communities in Colorado, one of two states to vote for legal sales of marijuana in 2012 (Washington was the other), voted for municipal referenda that impose additional sales taxes on marijuana at the city level. Coloradans need to be careful with over-taxing as an illegal market will continue if prices are too high due to taxes.

These votes come at a time when a recent Gallup poll showed 58% of the public supports marijuana legalization.  In addition to Colorado and Washington, 20 other states allow medical use of marijuana. This trend of reform began with a statewide vote in California in 1996 allowing medical use of marijuana and has picked up steam in recent years.  There are likely to be additional votes on the legalization of marijuana in 2014 and 2016.  The marijuana issue may be like the gay rights issue, a social issue whose time has come. Advocates should keep the pressure on and not assume victory is inevitable. There will be push back from those who oppose reform and advocates will need to push back harder to show they have sufficient power to carry the end of the marijuana war to completion. 

Legalizing marijuana will make a huge difference in ending mass incarceration and police abuse which continues to run rampant. Protests are ongoing in Santa Rosa, CA where a police officer shot and killed  a 13 year old, Andy Lopez. And this week in Baltimore, parents spoke out against police brutality in the city. In New York City, there is hope that stop and frisk policies will end. The new mayor, Bill de Blasio, ran on a platform against stop and frisk but when he is in office, he will have to be held accountable for that promise. The judge who was removed from the case after her decision to end stop and frisk was suspended is fighting back and calling for a hearing on her removal.

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