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Pot, Gay Marriage, Suicide Are Ballot-item Topics

DAVID CRARY

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ After all the economy-focused campaign talk, voters in some states will get a chance on Election Day to sound off on intriguing topics that the presidential rivals ignored, including death-penalty repeal, marijuana legalization and assisted suicide.

In all, there are 176 measures on the Nov. 6 ballots in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

Many are technical proposals by legislators related to state finances and regulations. Others, however, are dramatic and highly divisive measures that would â¿¿ if approved â¿¿ be historic milestones for U.S. social policy.

Any of three states â¿¿ Maine, Maryland and Washington â¿¿ could become the first to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote, a potentially momentous development that could influence future Supreme Court deliberations on the issue. Thus far, all 32 states with referendums on gay marriage have rebuffed it, while the six states that have legalized it did so through legislation or court orders.

Washington is in another three-state group, with Oregon and Colorado, that could become the first to legalize recreational use of marijuana â¿¿ allowing adults to possess small amounts of pot under a regimen of state regulation and taxation. The Oregon proposal appears to be fizzling, but the Washington and Colorado measures have led in opinion polls and are backed by wealthy out-of-state donors.

A "yes" vote in any of the states could set up a showdown with the federal government, which continues to consider pot an illegal drug. The Justice Department has declined to elaborate on how it would react.

Two other states â¿¿ Arkansas and Massachusetts â¿¿ will be deciding whether to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, as 17 states have done previously. Arkansas would be the first southern state to join the group.

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