Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap ruled in Wednesday's report that the Marijuana
Policy Project's initiative had failed due to irregularities affecting approximately
48% of submitted signatures.
An effort to legalize retail marijuana in Maine via citizen's initiative has failed, according the a report by the Maine Secretary of State.
Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap found that the initiative lacked the requisite 61,123 signatures to reach the ballot – a threshold figure set by law at 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. According to the Secretary, though proponents of the measure submitted 99,229 signatures, only 51,543 (roughly 52%) were valid.
The Secretary found that, of the nearly 48,000 invalid signatures, over 31,000 were invalidated because the signatures on the petitions swearing that the circulator witnessed each signature did not match the circulator’s signature on file with the state. Another 13,525 signatures were invalidated because they could not be verified as belonging to a registered voter in the municipality associated with the signature.
David Boyer, the campaign director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), has stated that the group plans to challenge the Secretary’s ruling. According to Boyer, “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 — whose notary commission has not expired — did not exactly match the signature the state has on file for that notary.”
If MPP wishes to challenge the Secretary’s decision, it must appeal the findings to the Maine Superior Court within 10 days of the decision.
The Secretary’s report has met with a mixed reception, coming as welcome news to opponents of the initiative, including advocacy groups and a significant segment of the Maine medical marijuana community. The initiative began as two competing measures proposed by MPP and Legalize Maine, which combined in October 2015 into one campaign, managed by MPP and promoting the bill drafted by Legalize Maine. This merger caused significant controversy among the Maine medical marijuana community, leading protestors to picket the delivery of petitions to the Secretary of State’s Office in February.
If it had succeeded, the legalization initiative would have allowed adults to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis and to cultivate six plants. The measure would also have permitted retail stores, social clubs, cultivation facilities, and other facilities in Maine to be licensed with municipal approval.
Maine’s medical marijuana program, which has existed since 1999 and consistently grown in recent years, is unaffected by the initiative’s failure.