Colorado will allow doctors to prescribe lethal substances to the terminally ill

On the same night as Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the US election, American states have also voted on assisted suicide and marijuana legislation.

In Colorado, a ballot to legalise assisted suicide passed. It becomes the sixth state to allow terminally ill people to take lethal substances which a doctor has prescribed. The proposal had previously been blocked in the state legislature.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said the law would “make it easier for people with bad intentions to prey upon the disabled” and would lead to pressure on doctors, nurses and pharmacists. The archbishop said assisted suicide would, as with Oregon’s law, “place the lives of vulnerable people in the hands of an insurance and healthcare industry whose profit-driven culture would incentivise doctors to prescribe death.”

California, which has the biggest economy of any US state, passed Proposition 64, which will allow adults to grow and possess marijuana. Massachusetts and Nevada also passed laws permitting the possession and growth of marijuana. A similar measure in Maine is in the balance. Arizona voters have reportedly rejected legalisation.

Last week, Cardinal William Levada, Archbishop Emeritus of San Francisco, condemned the California proposal, saying: “Too little is known about the impact on the health and education of our children, the increased danger on our highways, the impact on economically challenged neighbourhoods and black market expansion of cannabis-related commerce.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the current Archbishop of San Francisco, pointed out that legalisation of marijuana in Washington and Colorado had been followed by a rise in road traffic deaths. He also suggested that legalisation “sends a message to children that drug use is acceptable. If you don’t think teens will take up marijuana, look at the history of tobacco. It was ‘cool’ to smoke until the dangers became all too apparent. It then took decades for the smoking rate to reach today’s low levels. Will legalized marijuana follow that same pattern?”

Bills to permit marijuana solely for medical purposes passed in Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota.

Nebraska voted against repealing the death penalty. The state’s three bishops had supported a repeal.