The will of the people in Maine has been overruled on a technicality. On Mar. 2, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) announced that its 2016 ballot initiative has been disqualified by Secretary of State Matt Dunlap because of one faulty signature. Maine had been pegged as one of the states most likely to legalize in 2016, but hopes of repealing marijuana prohibition have been dealt a setback.
Here's what happened. To get on the ballot, campaigners had to raise 61,123 signatures. CRMLA exceeded that benchmark, turning in over 99,000 signatures on Feb. 1. But only 51,543 were considered valid by the Secretary of State's Office. There are various reasons why the others were disqualified. But the issue really comes down to one signature: more than 17,000 endorsements were dismissed because one notary's signature didn't match the signature that the state had on file. Had they been approved, voters in the Pine Tree State would be voting on legalization in November.
"We are very disappointed by the Secretary of State's determination," said CRMLA campaign manager David Boyer in a press release. "Based on documents they have provided, it appears that more than 17,000 valid signatures from registered Maine voters were excluded from the count because the signature of a single notary ... did not exactly match the signature the state has on file for that notary. We are exploring all legal means available to appeal this determination, and we sincerely hope that 17,000-plus Maine citizens will not be disenfranchised due to a handwriting technicality."
The campaign for recreational marijuana has now turned into a fight for basic democratic rights. State Rep. Diane Russell (D-Portland) told reporters, "This is about voting rights at its fundamental core, not legalization." Russell is a pro-marijuana activist who introduced a failed bill to legalize cannabis through the state legislature in 2015.
Now bureaucrats have defeated the movement to let voters decide the issue. According to a spring 2015 poll released by Critical Insights - a market research firm based in Portland - approximately 65 percent of Mainers support legalizing recreational marijuana use. But as of today, 0 percent will get a chance to vote on the issue.
However, that could change in the near future: CRMLA has until Mar. 12 to appeal the decision, so marijuana might get on the ballot yet.