The effort to get marijuana legalization on the November 2016 ballot in Maine is heading to court.
Last week, Maine's Secretary of State announced the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol did not have enough valid signatures to appear on the statewide ballot. The department had thrown out about 17,000 signatures because they claimed the notary's signature on the petition did not match the one they had on file.
"This is an issue of a handwriting technicality," said David Boyer, CRMLA campaign manager.
Boyer and the campaign's lawyer, Scott Anderson of Verrill Dana, argues that any person signing his or her name hundreds of times will have slight variations in their handwriting.
"Although there is variability from signature to signature, given that these people signed different documents, we believe that they do match as much as required," said Anderson.
Boyer said the Secretary of State's department did not contact his campaign, or the notary in question, to ask about the alleged handwriting discrepancy.
“The Secretary of State’s Office did not follow procedures commonly used to ensure, in their words, the 'integrity' of the process,” Boyer said. “The law dictates that these 17,000-plus signatures be counted.”
The Department of the Secretary of State released the following statement:
"In undertaking the certification process, we must assure the voters of Maine that questions they are asked to decide on the ballot are grounded in the premise that the requirements of the Constitution and the law have been met. Our goal in certifying any initiative is not to disqualify signatures or any other aspect of the petitioning process; quite the opposite. It is incumbent on us to discern that each and every signature was solicited by a Maine voter, made by a Maine voter, and properly notarized.
Our petition certification process is designed to assure that every signature on the petitions was made in accordance with the law and we are confident that the Superior Court will recognize our diligence and confirm our decision."
The Superior Court has 40 days to take action in the case. That decision could be appealed to the Maine Supreme Court. The lawyer for the marijuana campaign said his is confident they will have a decision before the deadline to make it on the November 2016 ballot.
The measure would allow Maine adults to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and cultivate a certain number of plants. It would also allow for retail shops and social clubs. In 2014, Portland voters overwhelmingly approved marijuana legalization within city limits. The following year, South Portland approved a similar ordinance.