2016 Year in Review from ProCon.org

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Big topics in 2016 included Alan Thicke’s passing, Trump’s election, the Dakota Access Pipeline,
Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the National Anthem, marijuana legalization, Pokémon Go, minimum wage laws, and the Cuba embargo.

ProCon.org has researched the pros and cons of more than 50 controversial issues, many of which have been in the news this year. Below we present our Year in Review to remind you about some of the big events of 2016 that relate to our topics.

Remember when Pokémon Go took the nation by storm, flooding the streets with people staring at their cell phone screens? Or when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the National Anthem, igniting a national debate about racial injustice as well as the appropriateness of athletes protesting at sporting events? What about the huge doping scandal just before the Rio Olympics that resulted in Russian track and field athletes being banned from competition?

Recently, the devastating loss of Alan Thicke hit our office hard, and we want to fix in our minds the memory of his philanthropic efforts as our celebrity ambassador.

2016 Election
Everyone on the staff here at ProCon.org pitched in to help create our site 2016election.procon.org, with a trove of statements from the candidates that the New York Times called “even more comprehensive” than its own. The Guardian said of our site, “All of the information is reliably sourced, and is presented in a straight-forward manner… This source allows people to make a well-informed decision.”

We created a presidential matching quiz that showed users how their views lined up with the candidates on 75 issues, as well as a candidate comparison chart showing the candidates’ positions. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson spoke with ProCon.org in June, giving us exclusive coverage of his position on many issues. Overall, we researched 16 candidates before the election, which was won by Donald Trump. Since the election, we delved into the pros and cons of the Electoral College as well as President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks.

Marijuana
2016 saw the number of states with recreational and medical marijuana reach a new high. In April, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana through legislation. In the Nov. 8 election, voters in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota passed propositions legalizing medical marijuana, bringing the total number of legal states to 28. Meanwhile, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada all voted to legalize adult use of marijuana. A July 2016 study published in Health Affairs found that the use of prescription drugs dropped in states with legal medical pot, to the tune of $165.2 million savings in overall Medicare spending in 2013. On Nov. 1, we presented a debate on the legalization of marijuana that was moderated by Alan Thicke at the Santa Monica Pier.

Minimum Wage
ProCon.org launched a new website in Apr. 2016 exploring the pros and cons in the debate over increasing the federal minimum wage, and it quickly became one of our most popular topics. In the Nov. 8 election, ballot measures to increase the minimum wage passed in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington, while South Dakota voters declined a measure that would have lowered the minimum wage by a dollar.

Alternative Energy
The Dakota Access Pipeline made big news in August when a coalition of Native American tribes and other activists began a blockade in an effort to stop its construction. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein joined the protest and the Morton County Sheriff’s Department issued a warrant for her arrest for Criminal Trespass and Criminal Mischief, both Class B Misdemeanors. As the conflict continued, we tackled the pros and cons of the pipeline project to help our readers develop an informed opinion.

Gun Control
President Obama announced some executive actions on gun control, including the closing of the “gun show loophole” by expanding background checks on gun buyers, at the beginning of the year. He approved the hiring of new ATF agents, increased mental health care funding, and more. In the Nov. 8 election, voters in California, Nevada, and Washington approved ballot measures related to gun control.

Cuba Embargo
The pros and cons of maintaining the Cuba embargo took on renewed relevance following the death of Fidel Castro on Nov. 25, 2016. President Obama’s Mar. 20 trip to Cuba made him the first US president to visit the island nation since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

Death Penalty
Nebraska voters approved the reinstatement of the death penalty, which had been abolished by the state legislature in 2015, bringing the total number of states with the death penalty to 32. California voters rejected a measure to repeal the death penalty and instead voted to reform it. On Oct. 18, we presented a debate on the death penalty at the Santa Monica Pier, moderated by California State Senator Ben Allen.