APNewsBreak: Maine pot referendum clears hurdle to ballot

AP News
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Posted: Apr 27, 2016 3:17 PM

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Supporters of a referendum proposal to legalize marijuana in Maine have cleared the hurdle to appear on the November ballot, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced Wednesday.

Election officials have certified an additional 11,305 signatures, enough to surpass the threshold of 61,123 valid signatures, Dunlap said.

Dunlap's announcement came after Maine's chief justice removed a legal hurdle to allow the review of petitions to continue. Now the referendum initiative will go to lawmakers, who can either enact the proposal into law or send it to voters.

The latest review was ordered after a judge set aside Dunlap's decision to reject thousands of signatures because the notary's signature didn't match the signature on file in Augusta.

Dunlap said Wednesday that seven circulators whose petitions containing 11,305 signatures were invalidated due to the notary signature problem submitted affidavits swearing under oath that they signed their petitions in front the notary, Stavros Mendros.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 99,229 signatures on Feb. 1, but only 51,543 of the signatures were deemed to be valid.

The secretary of state originally rejected more than 26,000 signatures. More than 17,000 of the rejected signatures were linked to Mendros, a political consultant and former state lawmaker, who personally notarized more than 5,000 petitions.

A Superior Court judge said it was unreasonable to expect the signatures to be exact matches, and sent it back to the secretary of state for another review.

Dunlap said Wednesday that he's been keeping the presiding officers of the Legislature updated on the situation and will forward the proposal for consideration on Friday.

If the proposal appears on the ballot, then Maine would be one of several states considering marijuana legalization proposals. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., already have made recreational use of marijuana legal for adults. Maine legalized marijuana for medical use in 1999.