Monday, April 11, 2016

Maine judge revives cannabis legalization initiative

Judge overturns Maine marijuana ballot question denial — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine - Christopher Cousins:

April 8, 2016 - "A Superior Court judge has overturned Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s ruling that a citizen petition for a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine was invalid.

"Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy made the decision in a 26-page ruling issued Friday. She ruled that Dunlap 'committed an error of law by applying a vague, subjective and/or unduly burdensome interpretation' of the law.

"She wrote that variations in signatures are understandable, given how citizen petitions are conducted.... 'It involves standing in streets, shopping malls, public places and town halls, in both foul and fair weather, and asking for the voters’ support,' Murphy wrote. 'Notaries are often asked to administer an oath in the midst of these less than ideal circumstances. The court finds that requiring a notary to perfectly reproduce his or her commission signature in light of these realities is unduly burdensome to this absolute constitutional right to initiative.'

"Dunlap said he is studying the decision and what it means. Under law, he has three days to decide how to proceed....

"The appeal was filed shortly after the secretary of state’s office invalidated the citizen petition in early March. Petitioners for An Act to Legalize Marijuana turned in more than 99,000 signatures, but only 51,543 could be verified — far short of the statutory threshold of 61,123 valid signatures of registered Maine voters....

"More than 17,000 of the invalid signatures were rejected because the signature of a single notary, Stavros Mendros of Lewiston, did not match the signature the state has on file. Mendros has said he signed the documents....

"The citizens initiative seeks to legalize the possession, purchase, growth and sale of marijuana for Mainers 21 years old or older....

"David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said he was 'extremely pleased with the court’s decision'.... Boyer said that since the Legislature is still in session and the November ballot is still under development, there should be 'plenty of time' to get the question decided by voters this year."

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