Maine lawmakers have overridden a gubernatorial veto of a bill to implement a regulatory system for recreational marijuana in the state.
On Wednesday, the House voted 109-39 and, shortly thereafter, the Senate voted 28-6, thwarting the latest attempt by Gov. Paul LePage (R) to block a voter-approved cannabis ballot initiative from taking effect.
“There are parts of the bill that we liked and some parts that we didn’t like,” David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment in an interview. “Ultimately we’re glad that the legislature is moving towards a regulated marketplace. We are approaching two years since Maine voters passed this, and adults in Maine deserve a place to purchase marijuana legally.”
LePage is known nationally for his anti-legalization stance. He generated headlines around the United States ahead of the state’s November 2016 election for his fear-mongering and often inaccurate public statements about the implications of cannabis reform.
But a slim majority of Maine voters opted to legalize recreational marijuana anyway, in spite of the governor’s protests.
A year later, in November 2017, LePage vetoed an earlier version of a bill to regulate recreational marijuana in Maine. But lawmakers did not reach the two-thirds majority in both the state House and Senate that are required to override a governor’s veto, and so went back to the table to craft a new plan that could earn broader support.
In his more recent veto letter, from last month, LePage argued that federal law prohibits marijuana and that the regulatory proposal failed to “adequately address the failings of the [state’s] medical marijuana program.” He also voiced concerns that recreational legalization would lead to higher traffic fatalities.
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(In March, a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research determined that “states that legalized marijuana have not experienced significantly different rates of marijuana- or alcohol-related traffic fatalities relative to their synthetic controls.”)
“We hope the governor will stop dragging his feet and implement this bill in a timely manner,” Boyer said, adding that he is disappointed lawmakers removed social use provisions from the bill.
Asked to comment on the legislature’s override, LePage spokesperson Peter Steele referred Marijuana Moment to the governor’s veto letter. “We are not commenting further,” he said.
See the original article published by Marijuana Moment below:
Maine Lawmakers Override Governor’s Marijuana Veto
Maine’s effort to legalize marijuana is now continuing forward.
Superior Court judge Justice Michaela Murphy has determined that state officials from the office of Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap improperly invalidated hundreds of thousands of signatures due to a handwriting discrepancy of a notary. Dunlap’s office has been ordered to go back and review the signatures again.
David Boyer, manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, said,
“We’re confident voters will be able to vote on this, on taxed marijuana. We’re pretty confident. We were confident when we submitted. We were confident when we submitted our appeal. We know they are good signatures.”
Justice Murphy wrote in her 26-page ruling,“While the state of Maine has a compelling interest to ensure that all petitions submitted for consideration in a direct initiative are valid, requiring a notary’s signature to appear identically on every petition is unreasonable and abridges the constitutional right to initiative. The state has presented no evidence, and the court is aware of none, correlating the variability of a notary’s signature with incidences of fraud in administering the circulator’s oath.”
Justice Murphy has placed the burden of proof on Dunlap’s office, explaining that a handwriting discrepancy does not equal fraud.
“The secretary of state did not determine that the notaries whose signatures varied from the signatures on their commissions did not properly administer the circulators’ oath. Instead, he claims he was unable to determine whether the notary signatures belonged to those notaries,”
From the beginning, the Secretary of State’s move to invalidate signatures was a fumbled message, with Spokeswoman Kristen Muszynski suggesting their office had made contact with the notary in question, followed by a contradicting statement by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap indicating they had not.
Scott Gagnon, director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, opposes cannabis legalization and is disappointed in the ruling. “It will open the door to elections fraud in Maine. We will be watching closely how this unfolds as it goes back to the secretary of state,” Gagnon said in a statement. “We will certainly be examining all options and strategies for the weeks and months ahead, and we will be prepared should this indeed find its way to the ballot in November.”
For now, David Boyer is looking forward to progress. “We’re definitely excited,” he said. “We’ve been in limbo for the last month.”
On Wednesday, the latest effort to legalize marijuana in Maine, known as An Act To Legalize Marijuana, failed due to the invalidation of 17,000 signatures based on the handwriting discrepancy of one notary.
Signatures can often be invalidated during the petitioning process, but this particular case is highly subjective. Maine law requires that signature collectors swear an oath to a notary that they have witnessed all of the signatures being made. According to the Secretary of State’s Office, the signature of a notary differed enough from other signatures made previously by the same notary.
“The staff felt like the signatures on the petition forms they decided to invalidate were obvious enough, they were markedly different from the bulk of the notary’s other signatures, as well as the signature on file.”
said Kristen Schulz Muszynski, a spokeswoman for the Main Secretary of State’s Office.
Had the notary’s signature been deemed valid, the petition would have reached the required 61,123 needed to make marijuana legalization appear on the November ballot. Muszynski stated that their office “did not directly follow up with the notary,” although Secretary of State Matt Dunlap mentioned to Maine Public Radio that, “it became apparent to us that we could not get good answers to our questions about the relationship between the notary and the circulator.”
“This is subjective, this is relative, and if we’re going to narrow a First Amendment right it needs to be spelled out. Leaving it up to someone’s opinion is not enough.”
said David Boyer, Maine Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
“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.”
As of Friday morning, Muszynski told U.S. News that Dunlop had misspoken, having assumed his office made the obvious step of contact the notary, which they had not. These conflicting accounts call into question the motives of the Office of the Secretary of State.
“We’re very concerned about the apparent lack of consistency in statements from the secretary of state,” said Boyer.
“When you are about to disenfranchise 17,000 registered voters based on a technicality, it is only logical to take a few simple steps to determine whether the notary signed the petitions or not.”
If the campaign plans to fight the decision, it has ten days from Wednesday to file a challenge with Maine Superior Court.