Judge Revives Referendum Proposal to Legalize Marijuana in Maine

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on April 11, 2016.

In an attempt to allow Maine residents to participate in a referendum for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, a Superior Court judge on Friday overruled a state official’s rejection of thousands of signatures that needed to get the initiative on the ballot.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy ruled that Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap had committed an error of law by applying a vague, subjective and/or unduly burdensome interpretation of the law to invalidate the signatures.

The ruling came a month after the Secretary of State’s Office disqualified almost half of the 99,229 voter signatures collected by marijuana activists on the conclusion that the notary’s signature didn’t match a signature that the state had kept on file, leaving the initiative without enough certified supporters to land a spot on the ballot.

However, Murphy has found that requiring a notary’s signature to appear identically on every petition signed is unreasonable and abridges the constitutional right to initiative. The judge also pointed out that the state presented no evidence correlating the variability of a notary’s signature with incidences of fraud in administering the circulator’s oath.

The Secretary of State’s Office was asked to respond the ruling in three days. It could also appeal to the Maine Supreme Court, conduct a further review of the signatures or simply validate those that were in dispute.

If the signatures are approved, Dunlap would then be required to forward the proposed law to the Legislature. The Lawmakers would be able to either enact it or send it on to the voters for the November ballot.

The referendum would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess marijuana, while levying a 10 percent tax on recreational sales. However, the use of Marijuana in public would remain illegal.

Voters in four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use recreational marijuana in similar ballot initiatives.

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