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Maine to Vote on Marijuana Legalization

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Voters in Maine will get a chance to decide whether to legalize marijuana in their state.

The office of Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced Wednesday that advocates collected enough valid signatures to place a measure to end cannabis prohibition on November’s ballot.

Last month Dunlap threw out a large batch of voter signatures because, he said, the signatures of a single notary on the petitions did not match the one on file with the state. As a result, the cannabis initiative did not have enough valid signatures to make the ballot.

Legalization advocates sued, asking the courts to overturn the decision. Justice Michaela Murphy agreed, ruling earlier this month that Dunlap’s office did not actually review every petition in question.

Since then, Maine officials certified 11,305 additional signatures, which were added to the the 51,543 signatures previously deemed valid, resulting in a total of 62,848, just barely more than the 61,123 needed to qualify.

“This November, Maine voters will have the opportunity to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said in a press release. “We are thrilled to finally start transitioning into the more substantive phase of this campaign. It has been a longer wait than expected, but nothing compared to how long the people of Maine have been waiting to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition.”

A poll last spring found that 65 percent of likely Maine voters support legalizing marijuana. A poll this week on the specifics of the initiative found that 54 percent of likely voters would support it.

“It is time to replace the underground market with a regulated system of licensed marijuana businesses,” Boyer said. “It is time to redirect our state’s limited law enforcement resources toward addressing serious crimes instead of enforcing failed prohibition policies.”

Maine is the second U.S. state to officially qualify a legalization initiative for this year’s ballot, after Nevada.

Florida officials have also certified a medical cannabis amendment. It is expected that advocates will soon secure full legalization initiatives in Arizona, California and Massachusetts, while medical marijuana seems likely to qualify in Ohio.

Local activists are also pushing a full legalization initiative in Michigan and medical cannabis measures in Arkansas and Missouri. While those efforts have not to date secured major funding and logistical assistance from national organizations with track records of passing ballot measures, they each have collected tens of thousands of signatures and could qualify.

Elsewhere in New England, lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island are considering legislation to end marijuana prohibition. Vermont could be the first state to enact legalization through the state legislature instead of via a ballot initiative. The state’s Senate in February approved a bill to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis, but it has encountered roadblocks in the House of Representatives. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has pledged to sign a legalization bill into law if it reaches his desk.

Photo Courtesy of Christopher Gardiner.

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