Posted: Nov 7, 2012 2:38 AM by Stephanie Condon - CBS News
The 2012 election broke new ground on the controversial issues of same-sex marriage and recreational marijuana use, with voters in some states voting in favor of both of them.
Colorado and Washington on Tuesday became the first states in the nation to approve of recreational marijuana. Early Wednesday morning, a third ballot measure to legalize marijuana appeared set to fail in Oregon.
Meanwhile, Maine and Maryland became the first two states to pass ballot initiatives approving of same-sex marriage.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 and older. It also requires the state to tax and regulate the sales of the substance. Washington state's Initiative 502 also legalizes, regulates and taxes marijuana.
It's unclear exactly how the federal government will respond to these initiatives, since marijuana use is still against federal law.
Colorado's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper told CBS News that "it's not immediately apparent" how the state will reconcile its new rules with federal law.
"I'm not sure we can make it as legal as voters would like us to do, but clearly the voters spoke," he told CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley.
Seventeen states have, over the past decade and a half, legalized medical marijuana -- also in violation of federal law, which prohibits any use of marijuana. However, it's up to federal officials how to enforce federal laws. In his first presidential campaign, President Obama promised to respect state medical marijuana laws, but his administration has cracked down on hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries, including some in compliance with state laws.
Three other states voted Tuesday night on medical marijuana: Massachusetts approved its Question 3 ballot initiative, while the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act appeared set to fail by early Wednesday morning. In Montana, medical marijuana is already legal, but voters as of Wednesday appeared set to approve a measure to keep more stringent restrictions in place.
When it comes to same-sex marriage, U.S. voters over the years have considered a total of 35 ballot measures banning same-sex marriage -- and approved all but one of them. The Maine and Maryland measures mark the first affirmative votes for same-sex marriage.
In Maine, Question 1 asked voters, "Do you want to allow the State of Maine to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples?" Maryland's Question 6 asked voters to uphold a law permitting same-sex marriage that Gov. Martin O'Malley signed in March 2012.
Washington State also voted on a measure to approve of same-sex marriage, but as of early Wednesday morning, the results were not in. Minnesota voted on whether to amend the state constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, but as of Wednesday morning, the results were unclear there as well.
Public opinion is moving in favor of same-sex marriage -- in 2011, Gallup found for the first time that a majority of Americans supported it. Before this election, six states plus Washington, D.C. allowed same-sex couples to marry. Three other states recognized same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
"With this historic election, there can be no denying that tonight is a watershed moment for gay and lesbian families in America," James Esseks, director of the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project, said in a statement. "Not long ago, marriage for same-sex couples was unimaginable. In a remarkably short time, we have seen courts start to rule in favor of the freedom to marry, then legislatures affirm it, and now the people vote for it as well."