TIME Law

Nebraska and Oklahoma Are Trying to Kill Colorado’s Buzz

By suing over Colorado's legalization of marijuana

Two neighbors of Colorado filed suit against the state on Thursday, claiming its legalization of marijuana has pushed some of the drug over state lines and asking the Supreme Court to strike the law down.

Attorneys general in Nebraska and Oklahoma allege that Colorado’s legalization violates the Supremacy clause of the constitution, which specifies that federal law takes precedence over state law. “Marijuana flows from this gap into neighboring states, undermining Plaintiff States’ own marijuana bans, draining their treasuries, and placing stress on their criminal justice systems,” the suit alleges, according to the Denver Post.

Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said at a news conference that pot from Colorado has been turning up at Nebraska’s border, which has led to an increase in arrest and prosecutions. “Nebraska taxpayers have to bear the cost,” Bruning said, according to the Omaha World-Herald, adding that “federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana.”

Kevin A. Sabet, President of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a bipartisan organization made up of mental and public health professionals, supports the lawsuit. “We support this action by the attorneys general of Oklahoma and Nebraska because Colorado’s decisions regarding marijuana are not without consequences to neighboring states, and indeed all Americans,” Sabet said said. “The legalization of marijuana is clearly in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and is not implemented in a vacuum.” Smart Approaches to Marijuana, or SAM, seeks a “middle road between incarceration and legalization” in dealing with pot offenses.

Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers said in a statement that he plans to defend the state’s marijuana laws in court. “It appears the plaintiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado,” he said. “We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”

MONEY Travel

4 Shockingly Affordable Last-Minute Holiday Trips

Who says you have to celebrate at the homestead? This year, start a new tradition in one of these affordable getaways.

Are the usual holiday festivities feeling a little stale? This could be the perfect time to shake up your routine and celebrate the season with a much-deserved getaway. Yes, we know: Traveling at the tail end of the year is pricey. However, if you’re strategic about where and when you go, you might be surprised by just how low you can get that tab. Here you’ll find four festive trips, each with its own unique appeal. Though the destinations range from beach towns to ski meccas, they do have one thing in common: a reasonable price tag. Now that’s a gift.

 

 

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico

    This palm-lined beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, could be your holiday vista.
    This palm-lined beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico, could be your holiday vista. Arco K. Kreder—First Light

    When to Go: Dec. 31-Jan. 7. San Juan remains relatively affordable throughout the year thanks to its airport, which has the cheapest average fares (per mile) of the 75 busiest hubs in the U.S., according to the Department of Transportation. In a recent search, flying from Chicago early on New Year’s Eve costs a manageable $550. Hotels are also affordable compared with many Caribbean hotspots. On Hotels.com, four-star properties in San Juan start at $206 a night during the first week of 2015, vs. $304 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and $341 in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.

    What to Do: You can’t go wrong wandering the blue cobblestone streets of Old San Juan. Stop by the massive Castillo San Cristóbal fort ($5) and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico ($6), one of the Caribbean’s largest museums. On Calle del Cristo browse shops such as El Galpon, which sells authentic Panama hats (prices from $60).

    Next, head to Santurce, an up-and-coming area full of hip bars and eateries. “It’s always packed with locals,” says Ryan Ver Berkmoes, author of guidebook Lonely Planet Puerto Rico.

    Hit the beach at nearby Ocean Park and Condado. For less than $20, you can rent a chair, buy a couple of cold beers, and feast on empanadas sold by street vendors. For a wilder dose of nature, explore the hiking trails and waterfalls at El Yunque National Forest, an hour outside the city. A guided tour is $60, including transportation from San Juan.

    Interested in another good day trip? Try Playa Luquillo, the mile-long crescent of surf and sand about an hour east of San Juan. The beach here has a fun, social atmosphere and is known for its food vendors, says Ver Berkmoes. So grab a tasty fried snack and check out the scene.

    How to Celebrate: The city’s biggest New Year’s party, complete with fireworks, happens at the Puerto Rico Convention Center (discounted tickets are $65 on Gustazos.com). For something more low-key, head back to Santurce and its central square, ringed with open-air bars and cafés, to toast 2015 with a $3 piña colada.

    Jan. 6 is Día de Los Reyes, or Three Kings Day. Expect parades and festivals with food and live music (but keep in mind that some stores and restaurants will be closed).

    Where to Stay: In San Juan, Le Consulat is a great bargain in the Condado luxury district, where it’s surrounded by hotels charging upwards of $300 a night. At $127 for a double, you get free Wi-Fi, a simple, modern room, and an outdoor pool. For a bit of a splurge, Ver Berkmoes recommends spending a couple of nights at the Gallery Inn, where each room is decorated with art and antiques. Doubles start at $220 a night.

  • San Francisco

    Embarcadero, Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA.
    Skaters take a spin on the Embarcadero rink. Walter Bibikow—Getty Images

    When to Go: Dec. 19-26. Why not spend Christmas in the City by the Bay? The weather is temperate, most attractions are open, and hotel prices actually drop, says Chris McGinnis, a travel blogger for the San Francisco Chronicle. For instance, last year, rates at the city’s big convention hotels hit an annual low of $170 or less from Dec. 19 to 25, vs. a full-year average of $241, according to the visitors bureau. Plus, with the usual tourist hordes thinned, museums are less mobbed, and reservations at top restaurants are easy (or at least easier!) to snag. Flights, too, are reasonable this time of year. We found nonstop flights from Chicago starting at $305.

    What to Do: Skip touristy Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the futuristic de Young Museum ($10; closed on Dec. 25), which displays 27,000 works from the 17th to 20th centuries. Don’t miss the observation tower. It has stunning views of Golden Gate Park. Nearby, the California Academy of Sciences houses an aquarium, a planetarium, and a living rainforest dome ($35).

    The city is “brimming with sublime food,” says Michele Bigley, author of the Fodor’s San Francisco guide. In the buzzing Mission District, Bigley recommends La Taqueria for a behemoth burrito ($7) before catching a movie at the Roxie, one of the oldest theaters in the nation. Cap the night with a cocktail at Trick Dog, where drinks are named for local landmarks ($12).

    Visit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market to see the NoCal bounty. “Occasionally you’ll spot famous chef Alice ­Waters shopping there,” says Anna Roth, food and drink editor of SFWeekly. In the same building, she recommends Hog Island Oyster Co. for seafood stew and, of course, oysters ($18 to $20).

    How to Celebrate: Through March, an art project using 25,000 LED lights will illuminate the cables of the Bay Bridge. Check it out from the amazing Top of the Mark bar on the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins. For a more athletic option, glide over the city’s largest outdoor ice-skating rink, set along the waterfront on the Embarcadero ($14 with skates).

    On Christmas Eve, indulge in an old-school meal at the House of Prime Rib, a city institution. “During the holidays it’s all decked out,” says Roth. “You’ll spend $40 or so for an entrée, but at least the martinis are cheap!”

    Where to Stay: For a unique property in the heart of things, try the Herbert Hotel. Located just off Union Square, the Herbert has bright, sleek rooms (ask for one with a private bathroom) and hardwood floors. Doubles are $259 a night through Dec. 20 but drop to $155 Dec. 21–25. Prefer something with more of a neighborhood feel? The quaint San Remo Hotel offers rooms with windows from $99, though you will need to share one of several bathrooms.

  • Bacalar, Mexico

    Bacalar, Mexico
    The shallow waters of the Lagoon of Seven Colors Hugo Ortuño Suárez—Demotix/Corbis

    When to Go: Dec. 15-22. Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula can get pretty busy at the end of the year. According to American Express Travel, Cancún is 2014’s most popular international destination for both Christmas and New Year’s. That appeal has some upsides—every major U.S. airline offers direct flights to Cancún. However, it also means crowds and, according to hotel researchers STR, a December average daily rate of $227.

    For holiday travelers, Bacalar is an escape from that tourist frenzy. This small town overlooking Laguna Bacalar, or the “Lagoon of the Seven Colors,” is 3½ hours from Cancún, and 35 minutes from Chetumal. During the holidays, ­Bacalar hotels ­average a manageable $123 on ­Hotels.com. To visit, fly into Cancún and rent a car (about $40 a day) or take the $55 bus. Flights tend to be cheaper earlier in December, says Zachary Rabinor, CEO of tour operator Journey Mexico; we found one for $414.

    What to Do: Tour Bacalar’s beautiful old Spanish fortress, Fuerte de San Felipe de Bacalar ($4, free on Sundays), originally built to protect the town against pirates. Later, hang with the locals at the town’s popular balneario (swimming facility); entry $2. The area is lined by small eateries and has plenty of thatched umbrellas where you can take a break from the Caribbean sun. Or, for just $1.50 an hour, rent a bike from Cocomoco rental shop and pedal along the bay. Obviously, you should be eating as many tacos as possible; the fish and shrimp options at La Playita are not to be missed (from $4).

    The town also makes a great base for exploring the Mayan ruins of Chacchoben ($4), a 45-minute drive away. The site, closed to the public until 2002, is home to stone structures dating to the year 800—some still showing signs of their original red paint. Mexico’s biggest cenote (a natural sinkhole), the 300-foot-deep Cenote Azul, is about a mile outside of town—the water is so clear you can see down to the sparkling-white sand floor. Entrance $1, life vests $3.

    How to Celebrate: Get in on the holiday spirit by checking out the town’s tree lighting. Then shop for locally made gifts at handicraft shops in the town center or near the entrance to the cenote. Also be sure to sample traditional Mexican Christmas goodies such as ponche (warm tropical-fruit punch stirred with cinnamon sticks), romeritos (sprigs of the romerito plant served with potatoes and mole), and bacalao (salted cod).

    Where to Stay: The recently opened Bacalar Lagoon Resort ($115) consists of seven spacious cabanas set on a freshwater lagoon; snorkeling gear is available gratis. Nearby Rancho Encantado is a great value at $125. The rooms have thatched roofs, air-conditioning, and cool tile floors. Guests can get an outdoor massage, kayak on the lagoon, or just kick back in one of the property’s many hammocks.

  • Keystone, Colo.

    Keystone, Colorado.
    Skiers take in the view of North Peak. Jack Affleck—Courtesy of Vail Resorts

    When to Go: Dec. 25-30. For a ski trip that doesn’t break the bank, Dan Sherman of Ski.com recommends Keystone, the most affordable of Colorado’s Vail Resorts properties. In late December, a single-day advance-purchase lift ticket at Keystone costs $99, compared with $129 at Vail or Beaver Creek. Plus, Keystone is just 90 minutes from Denver, allowing visitors to fly into a large airport with well-priced flights. Trim the cost of your airfare even further by flying on Christmas Day, when flights from Chicago start at $245, vs. $315 on the 24th.

    What to Do: Hit the mountain! Keystone offers an impressive mix of terrain, from “long-groomed cruisers” to the “trees and bumps of North Peak,” says Harold C. Jenkins, a travel agent at Corporate Vacations American Express Travel. The resort is also home to Colorado’s biggest night-skiing program, with the slopes open until 8 p.m. during the last week of the year. “Watching the sunset from the top of Dercum Mountain is spectacular,” says Sherman.

    Buy your lift tickets at least a week in advance; you’ll save up to 25% off same-day rates. Feeling a little rusty? Ski School lesson prices drop around 20% when you book two days ahead (about $130, though 2014 holiday prices are still being finalized). Kids 12 and under ski free, with none of the holiday blackouts you see at other resorts.

    For a break from the slopes, spend an afternoon in Breckenridge, a half-hour away. Grab ­coffee at local favorite Cuppa Joe and check out the stores and galleries in this former mining town.

    How to Celebrate: You’ve been burning calories, so go ahead and splurge on a nice meal. In the village, Ski Tip Lodge offers a four-course prix fixe ($75), with dessert served by the toasty fireplace. Or hop a gondola to Der Fondue Chessel, located at the top of North Peak. You’ll get a full Bavarian meal—including fondue, of course—for $59 a person.

    What time and place could be more appropriate for a sleigh ride? The resort offers hourlong rides that wind through Soda Creek Valley and include hot apple cider (adults, $30; kids, $20). Afterward, swing by Keystone Lodge to check out the model village carved out of chocolate.

    Where to Stay: Unlike most resorts, Keystone is just a ski area, with no standalone town. While that results in fewer off-mountain activities, it also means most lodging is just minutes from the slopes. A two-bedroom condo at the Gateway Mountain Lodge, a five-minute walk or free shuttle ride from the lifts, starts at $419 per night. (Compare that with a two-bedroom in Vail, which starts at about $900.)

    Prefer a standard hotel room? The Inn at Keystone ($235 a night for a double) is also walking distance from the slopes and has a rooftop hot tub with views of Keystone Valley.

  • What to Know Before You Go

    No matter where you’re going this season, these four air-travel strategies will save you time, money, and hassle.

    Check in the day before. Not only is online check-in your best chance at switching to a better seat (airlines release some prime spots 24 hours in advance), but if the flight is oversold, it reduces your chances of being bumped, says Wendy Perrin, travel advocate for TripAdvisor.com.

    Get in the fast lane. Planning to travel a lot in 2015 and beyond? Apply for TSA PreCheck, the program that allows you to go through expedited security lines without removing your shoes, coat, belt, or laptop. Membership costs $85 and lasts for five years.

    Load up on apps. Use your airline’s app to get the latest on your flight. MyTSA will update you on security wait times, and GateGuru is great for sussing out airport amenities.

    Bookmark flightstats.com. Canceled flight? Use this site to vet your options, says Perrin. Flightstats will show you which airports and planes are delayed so you can look for a route that works for you, rather than blindly accepting whatever the airline rep suggests.

     

TIME Marijuana

Colorado Approves Credit Union for Pot Stores

The credit union could open in January even as it waits to be granted insurance by federal regulators

America’s rapidly-expanding marijuana industry faces a major quandary: large, national banks are afraid to do business with cannabis businesses for fear of running afoul of strict federal regulations.

That could change with the creation of the first financial institution dedicated solely to serving the cannabis industry. This week, the Colorado Division of Financial Services issued a charter to The Fourth Corner Credit Union, which could be doing business and serving the local cannabis community as soon as January, a spokeswoman for the state’s regulatory agencies confirmed.

The dearth of reliable banking opportunities has turned the marijuana “green rush” into a mostly all-cash affair as business owners are unable to store their pot proceeds in a checking account. Fortune wrote about how banking restrictions have helped give rise to a number of ancillary businesses serving the cannabis industry by offering cash management and security services.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called the charter issued to Fourth Corner, the first credit-union charter granted by the state in almost a decade, “the end of the line” for the industry’s banking problem, The Denver Post reported.

Of course, Fourth Corner still must seek insurance from federal regulators at the National Credit Union Administration while the U.S. Federal Reserve will also have to offer its blessing. The credit union plans to serve any legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, as well as any members of non-profits that support legalized marijuana.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME States

Colorado Still Can’t Figure Out Final Rules for Edible Marijuana

Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014.
Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014. Brennan Linsley—AP

A state group adjourned without agreeing on solutions for keeping THC-laced food away from kids

A working group convened to help Colorado regulate edible marijuana products failed to come up with consensus recommendations at its final meeting Monday, punting the issue to the state legislature.

Officials have long been worried that edible products, which can take the form of sweets like lollipops and treats like brownies, will lead children to experiment with marijuana or accidentally ingest it. In May, the largest children’s hospital in Colorado reported that nine children had been brought in after accidentally eating such products, double the amount the institution had seen in the previous year. Despite fears that Halloween would see a spike of such incidents, the hospital didn’t report any cases of accidental ingestion.

The working group was formed to develop ideas for keeping edibles safe and out of children’s hands. The ideas ranged from making all marijuana edibles a certain color to banning most forms of edibles, limiting production to only lozenges and tinctures. A variety of suggestions will be presented to the state legislature when it reconvenes in January.

Makers of edible products don’t want to see their section of the market shrunk and point out that every “preparation of the plant” was given the green light when state voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012.

Washington, which opened its recreational market after Colorado, instituted emergency rules about edibles in June that require state approval of every edible product, including its packaging and labeling. Colorado’s working group rejected a proposal from the state health department to create a similar review commission.

TIME Education

What the Opponents of the New AP Standards Don’t Get

Jefferson County School Board Meeting regarding
Opponents of the proposed change the curriculum for AP U.S. History applaud Jeffco Superintendent, Dan McMinimee's compromise to wait on a vote, at a Jefferson County Board of Education public meeting on Oct. 2, 2014 in Golden, Colo. Andy Cross—The Denver Post

Recent events in Denver, Colo., underscore a misunderstanding Americans generally hold regarding the U.S. history curriculum

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Recent events in Jefferson County, Denver, Colorado, underscore a misunderstanding Americans generally hold regarding the U.S. history curriculum. What’s happening in Colorado and in other states, such as Texas and Florida, highlights an essential question. Is American history a patriotic celebration? Or is American history a story that empowers students to become engaged citizens of our 21st century nation? The good news is that the confrontation puts history and civics in its rightful position at the center of the school curriculum. There is no subject more important to the future of the United States.

Unlike many other nations, the people of America are not bound together by a single religion, ethnic heritage, or race. Instead, America is based on a set of Enlightenment ideas: that people are “endowed” with “inalienable rights,” including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that all people are created equal; and that government derives its power from the people. Citizenship means embracing these core principles, which, when taken together, are the essence of America.

To secure these principles, Americans must continually seek, in the words of the Preamble to the Constitution, “to form a more perfect union.” Not everyone agrees, however, how best to achieve a more perfect union. It requires debate. America is, at its heart, a great debate over how to best balance our civic values in order to achieve life, liberty, and happiness.

Central to teaching and learning history must be the ability to evaluate opposing ideas, the quest to balance democratic values, and compromise in policymaking. This requires cultivating the “democratic mind” in students and citizens. The democratic mind does not see the world in terms of “either/or.” It is more sophisticated, constantly seeking a way to reconcile values that seem at odds with each other.

Americans share a set of core values—values that are often in conflict, or tension, with each other. There are four sets of democratic value tensions central to the American debate. These value tensions help us better understand historic events, analyze public issues, and address the problems of our democracy. The mark of an enlightened citizen is the ability to intelligently use these four sets of values in addressing matters of public interest:

Law vs. Ethics
Private wealth vs. Common wealth
Freedom vs. Equality
Unity vs. Diversity

These pairs of values are inherently antagonistic, yet taken together they hold out the promise for a progressively better society. In a healthy democracy and good society citizens and their representatives attempt to bring these value pairs into balance as they address the issues of their time.

We describe the United States as a nation of laws and believe in the rule of law. At the same time, many American heroes have been lawbreakers. George Washington led a rebellion against his sovereign government; he was a traitor. Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus and violated a Supreme Court ruling to maintain the union of American states. Rosa Parks broke the law on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to advocate for civil rights. U.S. history is a chain of such events in which ethics trumped existing law and thereby advanced the cause of liberty and justice.

America’s quest for private wealth has been a driving force behind the nation’s economic development. Yet, investment in the public infrastructure—schools and universities, streets and highways, electric grids, gas utilities, research, and even parks, hospitals, libraries, and museums—benefit private businesses. Maintaining the common wealth enhances private wealth, but without thriving industries and prosperous workers, tax revenues would not be available to adequately support public goods and services.

The balance between freedom and equality is an essential fabric of American democracy. When conventional wisdom favors freedom, resources and money flow into the hands of the few. Left unattended the imbalance of wealth and power undermines democracy. In contrast, when government acts aggressively to redistribute wealth in the name of compassion and economic justice, personal liberty suffers.

One of the finest achievements of the United States has been to create a stable, political culture made up of different languages, religious traditions, and races. But unity is a persistent struggle. New immigrants to America, for example, have faced discrimination, distrust, and abuse while often occupying the bottom of the nation’s job chain. They came as German-Americans, Italian-Americans, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and Asian-Americans. Experience tells us that in time the hyphens are erased, and all become Americans adding distinctive cultural influences that enhance diversity and richness.

Today, history textbooks are increasingly packed with events, charts, photographs, but mostly facts—about discoveries, wars, battles, personalities, and speeches devoid of meaning. But history taught this way is tedious and soon forgotten. Arguments over what to include in the school curriculum are hardly healthy. History is seldom productive when taught as a catechism and enculturation.

When we examine history as the course of our Nation’s great debate, students benefit. They see American values in action. They understand that sometimes the debate is positive. Sometimes the debate is riddled with conflict and dissention. It is always hard work. It is always, however, a remarkable story of citizens in action. Learning those stories—these struggles—provide students practical experience with the American framework for civil debate, policy making, reconciliation, and progress. From this educational experience students take a conceptual method encouraging continual research, learning, and constructive participation in the democratic process.

We believe, and have witnessed, that students take a deeper interest in history and civics when approached from the proposition that “representative democracy” is developed and sustained through an open democratic debate. The alternative seems to be, what mostly exists now, divisiveness and a closed, authoritarian mindset.

The writers are co-authors of “The Idea of America: How Values Shaped Our Republic and Hold the Key to Our Future,” (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2013).

TIME 2014 Election

Abortion Rights Are on the Ballot in Three States

Voters in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee could help reshape the legal landscape

Abortion rights are on the ballot in three states on Nov. 4 as voters in Tennessee, Colorado and North Dakota weigh state constitutional amendments. Here’s what you need to know about the three ballot measures that could have national implications:

TENNESSEE

Volunteer State voters will be asked to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to explicitly note that it does require funding for nor protect the right to abortion. The new clause being proposed says:

“Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The proposal, known as Amendment 1, has its roots in a 2000 Tennessee State Supreme Court decision that struck down several state laws restricting abortion on the grounds that they violated the state constitution. The new amendment would make it easier to enact new measures tightening access to abortion.

The Odds

Toss-up. Opponents of Amendment 1 spent more than $3 million in October, compared to about $1 million by supporters, but the latest surveys show a close vote. According to a poll by Middle Tennessee State University released Oct. 29, 39% of registered voters said they supported Amendment 1, while 32% said they opposed it and 15% were undecided.

COLORADO

The latest effort to extend the rights of fetuses under so-called personhood laws, Amendment 67 would amend Colorado’s constitution so that “unborn human beings” are included as “people” in the state criminal code and wrongful death act. Colorado voters rejected similar proposals in 2008 and 2012.

Amendment 67 is also referred to as the “Brady Amendment,” named after an 8-month-old unborn child who was killed in a 2012 car accident caused by a drunk driver. Opponents of the measure say it could criminalize miscarriages, some forms of contraception and in-vitro fertilization, while making abortion illegal in Colorado. Under federal law, abortion is a protected right, so passage of the measure could lead to legal challenges. Some supporters of the measure say Amendment 67 is not intended to affect abortion rights or birth control, but would simply allow homicide charges to be brought against anyone who kills an unborn fetus. Yet, one group backing the measure, Colorado Right to Life, states on its website that Amendment 67 “makes abortion a criminal offense.”

The Odds

Unlikely to pass. In a poll conducted Nov. 1 and 2, Public Policy Polling found that 56 percent of likely voters opposed Amendment 67, while 38 percent supported it. In an earlier poll from Suffolk University/USA Today, 45% of respondents opposed the measure, while 35% supported it and 17.4% were undecided.

NORTH DAKOTA

Voters in North Dakota will decide on proposal similar to the one in Colorado. Measure 1 would amend the state constitution to say the life of a human being begins at conception by adding the following text:

“The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

Opponents say the measure would outlaw abortion in North Dakota and lead to legal challenges on the basis that abortion is a federally protected right under Roe v. Wade. Supporters say it will protect existing restrictions and regulations governing abortion in the state. Either way, should the measure pass, the final effects are unlikely to be known until the issue is litigated in the courts.

The Odds

Toss-up. In a poll conducted for two local news outlets released Oct. 21, 45% of likely voters said they opposed the measure, 39% percent said they supported it and 16% said they were undecided. An earlier poll released by the University of North Dakota put the odds of passage higher, with 50% of voters in favor, 33% opposed and 17% undecided.

Read next: Election Day Google Doodle Tells You Where You Can Vote

TIME 2014 Election

Early Vote Totals in North Carolina, Iowa Favor Democrats

Early Voting North Carolina Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville.
Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville, N.C., Oct. 28, 2014. Mike Belleme—The New York Times/Redux

Early vote totals show Democrats in some key states hitting the polls early at higher rates than Republicans

For more than 13 million Americans, Election Day has already come and gone. And that means control of the Senate may already have been partially decided, as a little more than three million of those voters were from key swing states, according to data from the United States Election Project.

So who’s winning? Early vote returns won’t tell us who is ahead in some of the country’s most closely-watched races, but they can give us an idea of where things stand heading into Election Day. And for now, both sides have evidence they can point to that shows they’re doing well.

For Democrats, North Carolina looks particularly promising. So far in the Tar Heel state, where voting rights advocates worried a shortened early voting period would have an adverse impact on the election, over 800,000 votes have been cast so far in the election and 47% were cast by registered Democrats. Registered Republicans account for about 32% of North Carolina’s early votes.

According to North Carolina political science professor Michael Bitzer who runs a blog tracking voting and politics, at least 130,000 more votes have been cast in 2014 compared to the same period in 2010, even though there were seven additional days of early voting that year. Also, more unaffiliated voters and black voters who did not participate in 2010 are hitting the polls this election.

Early vote totals in North Carolina could signal good news for incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, who is facing a tough challenge from Republican state Rep. Thom Tillis, but Election Day will show whether the flood of early votes from registered Democrats will surpass the expected Republican turnout at the polls.

For Republicans, the best evidence comes from Colorado, which is hosting its first election using all mail-in ballots. Out of the 1,149,745 votes that were cast as of Friday, about 41.3% were from registered Republicans. About 32.2% of votes thus far are from Democrats in the state. A recent report by Colorado Public Radio, however, suggests both parties are working the ground in the final days of the election to ensure voters get their ballots in the mail. The last-ditch effort could help in the state, where the latest round of polling has incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger Cory Cardner tied.

It must be noted, too, that a couple days out from the election, the most telling results are coming from two states that took two very different approaches to altering the voting process. In an attempt at expanding the voting pool, Colorado sent ballots to voters instead of waiting for them to show up at the polls, while North Carolina enacted what has been called the most restrictive voting law changes in recent history.

And then, there’s Iowa where a recent Reuters poll has Senate hopefuls Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst neck-in-neck. There, Democratic voters have returned more absentee ballots than Republicans—but just barely. Out of the 391, 772 votes returned, 39% are from registered Republicans and about 41% are from registered Democrats.

TIME 2014 Election

The Surprising Struggles of Mark Udall to Win Colorado Women

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) speaks to supporters as he kicks off his 'Mark Your Ballot' bus tour on Oct. 15, 2014 in Denver. Doug Pensinger—Getty Images

He is not the only Democrat in trouble with the one demographic Democrats bet would save them the midterms

If you live in Colorado, you might be forgiven for thinking the 2014 midterm elections are about one thing: abortion. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday released a new television ad hitting GOP Rep. Cory Gardner, who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall for his Colorado seat, for not “being honest with women.”

“Cory Gardner is trying to hide that he is sponsoring a new law to make all abortions illegal, even for victims of rape or incest,” says the DSCC release. The ad features OB-GYN Dr. Eliza Buyers, who slams Gardner: “Cory Gardner is wrong to make abortion illegal and just as wrong not to tell the truth about it.”

Udall himself has two other ads up targeting female voters. In one, another Colorado OB-GYN talks about Gardner’s “long record of fighting to roll back women’s access to health care.” And a second ad calls out Gardner “for personhood lies.” About half the ads he has run again Gardner have highlighted what Democrats call Gardner’s extreme stances on women’s reproductive rights.

The problem is Gardner refuses to play along. In March, he retracted his support for a measure on so-called personhood, or the belief that life begins at the moment of conception, and has since backed making contraception—though not all forms of it—available over the counter.

Now, with a week to go before the election, Udall is down 2.8 percentage points in polls, according to an average of Colorado polls by Real Clear Politics. More troublingly he’s down amongst female voters in at least two polls. If Udall loses women, he’s lost his seat.

Udall’s narrow focus helped cost him the support of the Denver Post, the state’s largest paper. “Rather than run on his record, Udall’s campaign has devoted a shocking amount of energy and money trying to convince voters that Gardner seeks to outlaw birth control despite the congressman’s call for over-the-counter sales of contraceptives,” the Post said in its endorsement of Gardner. “Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.”

And Udall isn’t the only Democrat struggling to turn the focus on women into a winning strategy. In Kentucky, Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes is even with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell with women, as is Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat fending off a strong GOP challenge from Rep. Tom Cotton in Arkansas. Like Udall, both Grimes and Pryor have invested heavily in turning out the women’s vote.

The “War on Women” is a playbook Democrats ran successfully in 2012, with significant assists from GOP senatorial candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock whose inopportune remarks on women and rape helped paint the party as out-of-touch on female issues. Unfortunately for Democrats, there have been no Akin and Murdoch repeats and candidates like Gardner have been much savvier in their messaging on women’s issues.

“A myopic focus on reproductive freedom and the ‘War on the Women’ does not seem to be an effective way to mobilize and motivate women in a year when the economy and jobs are at the forefront of voters’ minds, and GOP candidates have not made the same kinds of mistakes that Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock did in 2012,” says Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “In other words, courting the women’s vote is a smart move; the way several Democrats have gone about doing it has been not so smart.”

To be fair, the strategy is clearly working in other states like North Carolina, Georgia and New Hampshire where Democrats hold double-digit leads with women. And Colorado is notoriously difficult to poll. A Democratic poll released Monday showed Udall up by 9 points amongst female voters. Matt Canter, a spokesman for the DSCC, says that Colorado’s move to an all-mail voting system this cycle favors Democrats. Canter also noted that in the early voting returns thus far many female voters who did not vote in 2010 but did in 2012 are already turning out for Udall. “Public polls in Colorado were wrong in 2012 on Mitt Romney and they were wrong in 2010 on failed GOP Senate contender] Ken Buck,” says Canter. “We believe we maintain a strong advantage with women and that advantage is important for all these races.”

Certainly, Democrat Michael Bennet’s race against Buck is the template for Udall’s tough reelection. “In 2010 Michael Bennet was able to survive a midterm election in which Democrats lost their House majority in what Obama called a shellacking losing a record 63 seats and they barely hung onto Senate control because of his strength with women voters,” says Michele Swers, an associate professor at Georgetown University who specializes in women in U.S. politics. “Udall is trying to replicate that.”

The problem is, unless Udall’s polls are to be believed, “the gender gap in this race isn’t as great as it has been in past Senate races, notably 2008 and 2010,” says Jennifer Duffy, who follows Senate races for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

Arguably, the focus on turning out the women’s vote has kept 2014 from being a wave year: the only seats in play are in purple or red states, not blue ones. Progressive Sen. Al Franken, for example, is sailing through to reelection in Minnesota.

But unmarried women, the demographic Udall is targeting, are notoriously bad drop off voters in non-presidential years and clearly they seem to be motivated in some states more so than others. Udall has bet his race on turning them out. If they fail to materialize, Democrats will have to ask themselves: Was winning women the right strategy for all of their races? And when does it work and when doesn’t it and why?

 

TIME Drugs

Go Inside the Harvest of Colorado’s Most Controversial Marijuana Strain

Take a look at how Charlotte's Web transforms from plant to medicine.

The Stanley brothers of Colorado grow a strain of cannabis called Charlotte’s Web on a farm near Wray, Colo. An oil made from the plant is being used to treat children with epilepsy in Colorado and California and is in high demand throughout the country. Until this year, the Stanleys cultivated and sold Charlotte’s Web as medical marijuana. But because the plant meets the legal definition of hemp, containing less than 0.3 percent THC, the Stanleys are hoping they will be legally allowed to ship Charlotte’s Web oil across state lines.

TIME Culture

Pot Is the New Normal

Demand for marijuana edibles is pushing several Colorado manufacturers to expand their facilities or move to larger quarters.
Steve Herin, Master Grower at Incredibles, works on repotting marijuana plants in the grow facility on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. Kent Nishimura—Denver Post via Getty Images

Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.

Face it: marijuana is legal, crime is down, traffic fatalities are declining and fewer teens are lighting up

If you want to know just how crazy marijuana makes some people, look no further than the race for governor of Colorado, where Democratic incumbent John Hickenlooper is neck and neck with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez. They’re high-profile examples of a growing backlash against pot, even as none of the scare stories about legal weed are coming true. Drug-addled addicts embarking on crime sprees? Not in Denver. Stupefied teens flunking tests in record numbers? Uh-uh. Highway fatalities soaring? Nope.

About the worst you can say so far is that New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wigged out while high. But she does that from time to time when she’s sober as a judge too.

Neither Hickenlooper nor Beauprez has cracked 50% with voters, which makes sense since neither candidate can stomach the fact that 55% of Coloradans voted to legalize recreational pot in 2012. “I’ll say it was reckless” to legalize pot, averred Hickenlooper at a recent debate. Beauprez goes further still. When asked if it’s time to recriminalize marijuana, he said, “Yes, I think we’re at that point … where the consequences that we’ve already discovered from this may be far greater than the liberty … citizens thought they were embracing.”

In fact, sales and tax revenues from legal pot continue to climb, and more people now buy recreational pot than medical marijuana, even though the former is taxed at much higher rates. Pot has kicked about $45 million into tax coffers since it became legal this year and is projected to come in between $60 million and $70 million by year’s end. Murders in the Denver area, where most pot sales take place, are down 42% (so is violent crime overall, though at a lower rate) and property crime is down 11.5%.

There’s more bad news for alarmists: Pot use by teenagers in Colorado declined from 2001, when the state legalized medical marijuana, to 2013, the last full year for which data are available. When medical marijuana was introduced, critics worried that any form of legalized pot would increase usage among kids, but the reverse happened. It remains to be seen if that trend continues in the face of legal recreational pot, but Colorado teens already use dope at lower rates than the national average. So much for the Rocky Mountain High state.

Yet Colorado pols are in good company in harshing on legal weed. The recovering addict and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy heads Safe Alternatives to Marijuana (SAM) and categorically argues, “we cannot promote a comprehensive system of mental-health treatment and marijuana legalization.”

Researchers who find that regular marijuana use among teenagers correlates with mental problems, academic failure and other bad outcomes get plenty of ink, even though such studies fail to show causation. Underperforming students and kids with problems abuse alcohol and smoke cigarettes at higher rates, after all. In any case, even advocates of legalization argue that teens shouldn’t be smoking pot any more than they should be drinking. Given the drug’s pariah status for decades, it’s not surprising that the science is both unsettled and highly politicized.

Will legalizing pot increase access to a drug that law-enforcement officials concede has long been readily available to high schoolers? “Criminalizing cannabis for adults has little if any impact on reducing teens’ access or consumption of the plant,” argues the pro-legalization group NORML, a claim supported by declining teen use during Colorado’s experience with medical marijuana. Certainly pot merchants who are registered with and regulated by the state are more likely to check IDs than your friendly neighborhood black-market dealer.

At least this much seems certain: In a world where adults can openly buy real pot, you’re also less likely to read stories headlined “More People Hospitalized by Bad Batch of Synthetic Marijuana.” And support for legalization isn’t fading. The market-research firm Civic Science finds that 58% of Americans support laws that “would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

That figure obviously doesn’t include either candidate for governor of Colorado. But just like the rest of the country, whoever wins that race will have to learn to live with pot being legal, crime being down, traffic fatalities declining and fewer teens lighting up.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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