LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON - As U.S. political candidates make their final appeals, voters in 35 states will decide policy issues Tuesday that include legalizing recreational use of marijuana and restricting access to guns and ammunition, voting yes or no on nearly 160 state ballot initiatives.
California's Proposition 64, which is leading in the polls, could create a multibillion-dollar marijuana industry by legalizing the recreational use the drug for adults in the state. Similar measures are on the ballot in Arizona, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts.
Marijuana could be legalized for medical use in Florida and three other states. Medical marijuana is already permitted in half the 50 U.S. states, and recreational use is allowed in Alaska, Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and the District of Columbia.
Marijuana is banned under federal law, but U.S. officials have taken a hands-off approach on the issue.
Voters in Maine and Nevada are considering measures that would expand background checks for gun purchases, which is already required for buying guns from dealers, by extending the provision to private sales.
Californians will consider measures requiring background checks for buyers of ammunition and banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Washington state has a measure that would allow the courts to bar the sale of guns to individuals deemed an extreme risk to themselves or others.
Californians are considering whether to eliminate the death penalty with Proposition 62, or to maintain capital punishment and make the process more efficient with Proposition 66, which supporters say makes it more fair to victims of violent crimes.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have abolished or overturned capital punishment on the grounds that it is unequally applied to minority populations and that innocent people are sometimes convicted.
South Dakotans will decide whether to make statewide offices nonpartisan and create a citizens commission to redraw voting districts after each 10-year national census, removing the task from legislators, said by critics to be self-interested.
The minimum wage could get a boost in South Dakota, Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington state. And voters in California will uphold or reject a state law that bans single-use plastic bags, which many consider an environmental hazard.
Health care measures are on the ballot in four states, including California, where voters could limit payments by state agencies to pharmaceutical companies, setting drug costs at the discounted prices enjoyed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Opponents include major pharmaceutical companies, which have spent more than $100 million to try to defeat the measure.
As voters in several states consider further loosening their restrictions on marijuana, a boost in tobacco taxes is on the ballot in California, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota.
About 70 measures on state ballots are citizen-sponsored initiatives, which are presented to the voters after their supporters have collected petition signatures, in a process that varies from state to state.
Other ballot measures are statutes or amendments to state constitutions that are proposed by legislators, or major spending questions for building schools or infrastructure that need voter approval as bond issues.