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2012 Elections: President Obama wins, Congress remains split, recreational marijuana use legalized

November 7, 2012
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor, with Mark Hagland, Contributing Editor
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President wins by razor-thin margin, while Democrats surprise in Senate results

The results of the 2012 elections appear to retain a very similar balance of power among the White House, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives, with President Barack Obama defeating former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and the overall balances in the Senate and House being preserved.

Shortly after 11 p.m. on Nov. 6, all the major broadcast networks called the presidential election for President Obama, after returns from the pivotal swing state of Ohio appeared to show a conclusive victory for the President there.  By early morning, the major networks had declared 303 electoral votes for Obama, versus 203 for Romney, with Florida's 29 electoral votes still undetermined. 

The Senate ended up with a Democratic majority with 54 Democrats and 45 Republicans, with one independent, Angus King of Maine, expected to announce that he will caucus with Senate Democrats.  Over in the House, the Republicans have majority with 234, compared with 194 Democrats.

President Obama and the members of Congress from both parties will next be faced with having to deal with a number of issues during the so-called lame duck session of Congress that will be held at the end of the year, as well as the specter of the looming “fiscal cliff,” with across-the-board cuts to the federal budget, including of course, the federal healthcare budget, facing the members of Congress at the beginning of next year.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the baseline scenario involved in the fiscal cliff is allowed to take effect in 2013, it would reduce federal spending by $103 billion and increase tax revenues by $399 billion through September 2013 (the end of FY2013).  Among other thorny issues, “going over the cliff” would compel a 27-percent Medicare physician reimbursement cut on Jan. 1, 2013, when the current “doc fix,” which has prevented the imposition of long-delayed cuts under the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, would expire.

Marijuana legalization

Colorado voters passed a state constitutional amendment that calls for the legalization of 'recreational' marijuana. The measure, called Amendment 64, will amend the state constitution to legalize and regulate the production, possession, and distribution of marijuana for persons age 21 and older. The measure has caused concern among addiction treatment providers, who fear the long-term implications of voter approval of another legal intoxicant whose addictive potential and harmful effects on the brain are not yet fully known. They also worry that other state initiatives will follow.

Washington voters also voted to legalize recreational marijuana use, approving a referendum that will subject marijuana grown and sold in the state to a 25 percent tax at each stage of distribution:  

  • when the grower sells it to the processor
  • when the processor sells it to the retailer
  • when the retailer sells it to the customer

Proponents of the Washington measure estimate that these taxes will bring in as much as $500 million annually.

Oregon voters rejected a ballot referendum on recreational marijuana. Their initiative would have allowed legal marijuana sales through state-licensed stores, unlicensed cultivation of the drug, and removal of any restrictions on hemp. 

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