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November 6, 2012 at 7:30 AM

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Washington's life-changing initiatives -- we're not alone

Washington state has somethings in common with other states, namely some potentially life-changing policy issues. The Times editorial board recommends voters approve all of them, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and charter schools: read our endorsements here.

Though other states allow same-sex marriage because of legislative or court action, Washington has the opportunity to be the first state to embrace same-sex marriage by popular vote with Referendum 74. Or, at least, to be among the first since Maine and Maryland have similar measures on the ballot. Meanwhile Minnesota voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Washington state also could be the first state to move to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana with Initiative 502. Voter approval would send a strong message to the federal government that its prohibition policies have utterly failed. Two former U.S. attorneys in Seattle, Kate Pflaumer and John McKay, and the FBI's former special agent in charge, Charles Mandigo -- who are in a position to know that federal prohibition is a disaster -- are prominent supporters of Initiative 502.

Also voting on allowing the recreational use of marijuana under tighter regulation and taxation are Oregon and Colorado.

Six other states -- Arkansas, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania -- are considering ballot measures to allow medical marijuana. Washington is among the 17 states and the District of Columbia that already allow medical marijuana.

While Washington state has the potential to lead on marriage equality and marijuana legalization, the state can play catch-up on another significant public policy related to education.

Initiative 1240 would allow Washington to venture into charter schools with a limited experiment of up to 40 charter schools. The schools would be focused on serving at-risk children. The state is among only nine that do not allow charter schools. And voters have rejected charter schools three times in the past, most recently in 2004.

Tuesday, Georgia voters also are considering a refinement of its charter school laws.

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