Falmouth-based campaign to legalize marijuana in Maine submits surplus of signatures

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FALMOUTH — Tucked unassumingly behind an antique store and real estate agency on Route 1, the campaign to end marijuana prohibition for adults in Maine took a large step forward Monday.

David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, state Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, and about a dozen volunteers gathered before they planned to submit more than 103,000 petition signatures to election officials in Augusta.

The petitions, in boxes stacked outside the campaign headquarters at 183 U.S. Route 1, were loaded into a U-Haul truck for delivery to the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions.

According to state law, at least 61,123 valid signatures of registered Maine voters are required for the question to qualify for the November ballot. According to the campaign, registered voters from more than 400 towns signed the petition, and the campaign expects to have the issue on the ballot this year.

Boyer said the signatures were collected over the past eight months. The proposed initiative would end marijuana prohibitions for adults 21 and over, just like alcohol. Adults could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes. The initiative also calls for a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales.

Russell, who has unsuccessfully introduced bills to legalize marijuana, said “the time had come to bring marijuana out of the shadows” and into a regulated market. She said medical marijuana had proven to help alleviate patients’ pain and reduce opiate drug withdrawals.

“To collect more than 100,000 signatures is a highly unusual feat,” Russell said, adding it was a “clear demonstration” that the people of Maine want the chance to vote on this issue.

“It’s time to end the failed war on drugs,” she added.

Boyer cited Colorado, which enacted a similar law in 2012, as an example of how such an initiative can be successful and generate tax revenue. Both Boyer and Russell said access to marijuana now comes through an unregulated “black market,” where drug dealers don’t care how old a buyer is. Boyer said this, coupled with the fact many believe marijuana to be less addictive and damaging than alcohol, makes for a “bad public healthy policy.”

Boyer also said legalized marijuana would benefit law enforcement agencies, which have “bigger fish to fry” than adult marijuana users.

Russell said the petitions show Mainers want a “rational policy around drug use.” She said Maine has shown it can regulate marijuana responsibly, given the use of medical marijuana across the state.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

State Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, at the podium, and David Boyer, right, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, at a press conference in Falmouth on Tuesday, Feb. 1, where campaign organizers announced they have enough signatures to put the question on the November ballot.

Volunteers for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol help load boxes of petition signatures onto a truck in Falmouth on Tuesday, Feb. 1, for delivery to state election officials. The campaign, which hopes to end marijuana prohibition in Maine for adults 21 and older, collected more than 103,000 signatures across the state. 

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.