Pro marijuana advocates in Maine are expected to start collecting signatures to get recreational pot on the ballot in 2016 following approval Tuesday of a petition by the Secretary of State's office, the Associated Press reported. Legalize Maine submitted its proposal 10 weeks ago, and hoped to put through the petition pushed without help from outside marijuana groups.
“This is a historic moment, not just for Maine, but for the nation,” Legalize Maine President Paul McCarrier said in an emailed statement. “We are the first to put a homegrown initiative on the ballot without backing from national marijuana organizations. … We have been waiting weeks for this day, and we are hitting the ground running.”
Legalize Maine will need more than 61,000 valid signatures by Jan. 22 to get the initiative on the November 2016 ballot.
If approved, the law would allow adults at least 21 years of age to possess and grow limited amounts of marijuana. It would also set up a system for marijuana to be manufactured, tested, regulated and sold, similar to the retail pot economies in Colorado and Washington.
Another pro-pot group is attempting to get its own initiative before Maine voters next year. A group called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, backed by the national Marijuana Policy Project -- the organization behind Colorado’s successful recreational marijuana effort in 2012 and Alaska’s in 2014 -- submitted a competing initiative to the Secretary of State's office earlier this year.
If both groups get state approval to start collecting signatures, and both organizations reach their goals, it could create confusion among voters when they see two legalization measures on the ballot, legal experts have said.
Legalize Maine has been against the Marijuana Policy Project’s initiative from the beginning. "Mainers don't need a group from Washington, D.C., to dictate what's best for them,” the group said in a statement in March.