Thank You, Maine Marijuana Law Advocates, for Uniting

   

As reported and covered earlier today, two competing Maine marijuana legalizations campaigns have united around the singular goal of ending cannabis prohibition in the Pine State. This is tremendous news that greatly enhances the chances that Maine will legalize marijuana in 2016. So much talk among advocates lately has been dominated by the fractured movements in Ohio and California, that this move towards unity is a much-needed breath of fresh air.

Legalizing marijuana statewide is very hard work. Drafting the text of a measure that can win at the ballot box, secure the funding necessary and keep cannabis law reform advocates satisfied is a monumental task. Collecting tens of thousands of valid signatures takes a ton of work, carried out by both paid signature gatherers and volunteers that must withstand various weather conditions and oftentimes insults hurled by prohibitionists.

In some states, there may be even mechanisms for outside parties to challenge the initiative petition or otherwise stall the campaign. Having competing campaigns throws even more challenges upon legalization efforts as the different efforts compete for funding, volunteers and support. Thus, it is great news for the Maine legalization effort that two competing legalization measures have joined forces to end cannabis prohibition in the Pine Tree State.

The Portland Press Herald reports:

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a Marijuana Policy Project-backed campaign, will stop collecting signatures to support the initiative it filed in March that would set up a system to regulate the sale of marijuana to adults. That group will now spearhead the campaign in support of a similar initiative filed in February by Legalize Maine, which billed itself as a homegrown group supported by people in the agriculture and medical marijuana industries.

Each campaign had collected about 40,000 signatures. The groups will now work together to collect the remaining signatures needed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. They have until January to collect 61,000 valid signatures of registered Maine voters.

“Joining forces is the best step forward, not only for our respective campaigns, but for Maine as a whole,” said David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “We all agree marijuana prohibition has been a colossal failure and that it must be replaced with a system in which marijuana is legal for adults and regulated like alcohol. We can more effectively accomplish our shared goal by combining resources and working together instead of on parallel tracks.”

The Pine State is certainly on the short list of states most likely to end cannabis prohibition in the near future. Personal possession is already decriminalized in Maine. Medical marijuana was first passed with more than 61% of the vote in in 1999 and over 58% of voters cast ballots to add more medical conditions and establish a dispensary system a decade later. Prohibitionists very publicly cheered the defeat of legislative attempts to legalize cannabis, so the issue must be taken to the voters, who are usually years ahead of politicians on the issue.

As we look to end cannabis prohibition federally and finally end such a failed and harmful policy, statewide efforts are extremely important. Many more elected officials, policy makers and everyday folks who may be on the fence will start to come around when they see that the sky doesn’t fall when marijuana is legalized and that common-sense changes are needed federally, such as allowing marijuana businesses to utilize banks and deduct taxes as any other state-regulated business can.

Cannabis law reform activists uniting around measures that can win at the ballot box make it much more likely that statewide efforts will succeed and, thus, that much closer to ending prohibition federally. I sincerely thank Maine activists for uniting around one cannabis legalization measure, this should be an example for many advocates across the country.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.