Good news out of Maine: Two groups that were pushing to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in Maine have teamed up, erasing a divide that threatened to scuttle hopes for reform next year.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced in October that it would throw its weight behind a 2016 ballot proposal by Legalize Maine, a competing group. The Campaign had been pushing its own initiative, though it was relatively similar to the Legalize Maine petition.
Both proposals would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for personal use. Maine already allows medical cannabis, and support for full reform is strong. The state is widely considered one of the most likely to adopt legal weed in the next two years.
Removing division within Maine’s marijuana community
The competing proposals, though not essentially different, had nonetheless led to divisions within the marijuana community. The Campaign won the backing of the Marijuana Policy Project and other national groups, while the Legalize Maine group was supported almost exclusively by grassroots activists and low-level donors.
The union means voters will face just one initiative next November. That increases the likelihood it will pass at the ballot, since voters faced with similar initiatives in the same election tend to reject them all.
Advocates must gather at least 61,000 valid voter signatures by January to put their item on the statewide ballot. Legalize Maine had collected roughly 40,000 signatures as of late October, suggesting voters will likely get a shot at legalization next year.
Improved chance of success at the ballot
“Either one of our measures would have passed, but all of us had our doubts about what would happen if there were two measures on the ballot,” said Lynne Williams, general counsel for Legalize Maine. “It’s probably always better to work together than to work on parallel tracks.”
At the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, David Boyer noted that “our initiatives were largely similar overall.” The Legalize Maine proposal is somewhat less restrictive than the Campaign petition, but support remains strong in public polling. A Gallup survey released in October found a large majority of Americans, 58 percent, favor full legalization.
Ohio will vote on legalization this month
Just one state, Ohio, will vote on legalization in this November’s off-year election, and passage is far from certain there. But activists in several states are already pushing efforts to legalize in November 2016, including New York, California, and Massachusetts.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol also operates in the Bay State, where a similar division has developed between national organizations and grassroots groups. There are no signs yet that competing groups are ready to make nice there, and deep disagreement remains over whether legal weed should be taxed.
National lobbying groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project tend to favor relatively restrictive reforms, including low caps on possession, tight regulations on cultivation and sale, and hefty taxes. The grassroots side of the movement, on the other hand, pushes more liberal efforts that promise few limitations.