Maine Officials Allow Pro-Marijuana Group to Collect Signatures

Legalize Maine will need to collect more than 61,000 signatures by Jan. 22 to get its petition on the November 2016 ballot.

Maine state officials say a pro-marijuana group called Legalize Maine can collect signatures to try to get a question about legalization of the drug on the ballot in November 2016. The group asked state officials to approve its petition, and the Department of State signed off on it on Tuesday morning. A spokeswoman for the department says the group received the finalized petition on Tuesday.

The group needs to collect at least 61,123 signatures by Feb. 1 so the question can go to the voters in November 2016. Another group backed by the national Marijuana Policy Project is also seeking approval for a legalization petition drive. That group is called the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

“This is a historic moment, not just for Maine, but for the nation,” Legalize Maine President Paul McCarrier said in an emailed statement reports the International Business Times. “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.” More from the IBT:

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.

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