Maine Marijuana Legalization Initiative Fails to Qualify for Ballot


Maine voters may have just missed their chance to make their state one of the next to legalize marijuana.

The Maine Secretary of State’s office announced on Wednesday that cannabis reform advocates failed to collect enough valid signatures from registered voters in order to qualify their initiative for November’s ballot. Pro-legalization forces with the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) turned in a total of 99,229 signatures last month, but officials say that a maximum of only 51,543 were valid. The campaign needed 61,123 valid signatures to qualify.

The measure would have allowed adults over 21 years of age to possess up to two and a half ounces of marijuana and grow up to six flowering plants and 12 immature plants. The state Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry would regulate the newly legal cannabis industry, and the measure would impose a 10% tax on retail sales. Cities and towns would have the right to prohibit marijuana businesses.

But now, voters may not get a chance to decide whether to enact the measure.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap invalidated approximately 17,000 of the voters’ signatures because the signature of the notary on the petitions did not match the signature on file with the state, he said.

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which funded much of the signature gathering effort and has conducted a public education campaign in the state over the past several years, says it is exploring its options to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision. Through its CRMLA committee, the group said it was “disappointed” by the news.

“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,” the organization said in a statement. “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.”

Maine would have been the second state to officially qualify a legalization initiative for this year’s ballot, after Nevada. Florida officials have also certified a medical cannabis amendment. It is expected that advocates will soon secure full legalization initiatives in Arizona, California and Massachusetts, while medical marijuana seems likely to qualify in Ohio. Local activists are also pushing a full legalization initiative in Michigan and a medical cannabis one in Missouri, but those efforts have not yet secured the backing of major national organizations with track records of qualifying ballot measures.

Elsewhere in New England, lawmakers in Vermont and Rhode Island are considering legislation to end marijuana prohibition. Vermont could be the first state to enact legalization through the state legislature instead of via a ballot initiative if a bill that passed the Senate last month makes its way through the House of Representatives. Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has pledged to sign the legislation into law if it reaches his desk.

Anti-legalization advocates welcomed Wednesday’s development.

“This is a huge sigh of relief for Mainers and our public health community, especially in a period where we are facing a serious and growing opiate crisis,” Scott M. Gagnon, Maine director for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, told

The failure to qualify for the ballot comes amidst growing sense of unity in the state’s marijuana reform movement that advocates hoped could propel them to victory on Election Day. Until late last year, there were two anti-prohibition groups competing to qualify an initiative. But in October, the effort being funded initially by MPP stopped circulating its own measure for signatures and instead got behind the homegrown effort of Legalize Maine. Together, they turned in approximately 100,000 signatures last month.

A poll last spring found that 65 percent of likely Maine voters support legalizing marijuana.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett

About Author

Tom Angell covers policy and politics for Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit organization Marijuana Majority, which works to ensure that elected officials and the media treat legalization as a serious, mainstream issue. Marijuana Majority led the effort to get the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pass a resolution telling the federal government to respect state marijuana laws, and orchestrated the first-ever endorsement for marijuana legalization by a U.S. Supreme Court justice (John Paul Stevens). Previously, Tom worked for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (All organizations are listed for identification purposes only.)


    • Fire Marshal Bill on

      It comes as a shock that the government uses dirty tricks? Don’t you wonder why they held right off until the end of the 30 day deadline? Today was the final day for them to decide. They would have known weeks ago that the signature didn’t match what they had on file. This is absolute BS. This is the subversion of democracy.

  1. so 47,686 signatures didn’t match, what a bunch of crap! only in Maine where almost all the residents want to legalize marijuana does a bunch of bone heads try to pull something like this off.

  2. Something stinks to high heaven about this. I would bet that Paul Lepage had a hand in this, as his pathological corruption, racism, and disdain for democracy are well-known.

  3. Why do people in government hate cannabis user? they every excuse they can find to keep the herb illegal. this is bullshit.

  4. LOL
    Silly East Coasters!
    You needed a MEDICAL initiative first, one with a CAREGIVER clause, that prevents the OHIO mess.
    Follow CA CO OR NV AND AZ and get a medical initiative on the ballot, because once you do, anyone can get a card, and the regular population sees dispensaries are not like topless bars, just usually NEXT to them.
    Once the regular population sees the medical phenomenon working, most want to try a rip or a dab, and get in line and vote it in.

    FOLLW THE WEST we are the best…and check out my TRAY of fun


    • Nick Mssrkrft on

      You sound like an ass. I lobby very hard in Maine and we have a caregiver bill and thousand of patients already. The Maine medical program is the strongest in the country and we have all the patients to support us. Lepage just fucked us….. Ty for your westcoat in site lol

      • LOL
        Big Business is in the game back East, and you guys are a decade behind and fighting issues we never encountered here due to your lack of early traction, and as far as saying the MAINE medical program is the strongest in the country is LUDICROUS, considering even AZ dwarfs it and California INVENTED IT.
        I would roll out more medical dispensaries and follow the west coast model, and not worry about rec-retail after a failed attempt, since the mood of the country is trending RIGHT, and the non-smoking nonsense they are selling in NYS is bad for everyone!

        • ElJefeAbides on

          I think you make very good points except for assuming that big business is only in the east. Here in NV, all the newly established medical dispensaries have the right of first refusal on the recreational goods once it is legalized. That means those who had the connections and paid the big bucks will reap the fortunes at the exclusion of true free enterprise. Hopefully that will change but history and experience says it most likely won’t. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for legalization, I just wish that a small few weren’t given the exclusive rights to prosper greatly from a naturally grown plant. The best to you.

          • Indeed, I am a small grower and provide to dispensaries. I have 144 folks signed as caregivers, so I can harvest 12 plants for each, and provide it to them for a “donation’, and the rest I sell to dispensaries at crazy low prices just to stay in the game. Sadly, I am sure RJ Reynolds will eventually take it all over, (LOL) but it is nice to at least have a medical option!
            Peace to you, I am originally from Rochester NY BRRR.
            Never go straight, always go foreward!

          • ElJefeAbides on

            Keep up the good work! In my opinion, you are providing a great service for people in need of a pharmaceutical alternative. Let’s hope big tobacco, big pharma and big government keep their hands out of it.

  5. C.D. Austin Tx. on

    Who was responsible for checking the accuracy of the signatures ..? Maine Election workers who program computers.
    No one who is a Professional Handwriting Expert checked 60,000 signatures. It would A entire team of handwriting experts weeks ..

  6. Don’t give up. Try, Try again. One day we’ll win our right to chose for our self what we want to consume…

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