AUGUSTA, Maine — The two campaigns that have been jousting to put competing marijuana legalization questions on Maine’s 2016 state ballot have coalesced behind one plan, organizers announced Monday.
It ends an awkward, rancorous duel that divided marijuana advocates and potentially scared away large national donors who would already have given to the effort to legalize marijuana in Maine under normal circumstances.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release that it will run the effort in support of a legalization question proposed by Legalize Maine, an organization formed by state medical marijuana advocates.
Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine, called the announcement “a major milestone on the path to ending marijuana prohibition in Maine” in a news release.
Legalize Maine’s proposal is similar but more permissive in some respects than the one proposed by the Marijuana Policy Project. For example, it would make up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal instead of the national group’s 1 ounce, and also features cheaper fees for cultivation licenses.
Tamar Todd, director of marijuana law and policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that helps coordinate marijuana law reform nationwide, said both proposals were “responsibly drafted” and the “only problem was that there were two campaigns,” making it difficult for national funders to rally behind the cause.
“I think because of the reality of the situation, there was an openness and a willingness to unify,” she said.
The two groups have been negotiating for months in private over combining the effort and differences have spilled into the public eye.
In August, McCarrier accused the Marijuana Policy Project of walking away from negotiations, saying it wanted a national “cookie-cutter model” that won’t work for Maine. David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said then that negotiations had stopped because McCarrier was trying to “trick” him about Legalize Maine’s willingness to collaborate.
That animosity had subsided by Monday. McCarrier referred questions to Boyer, who said he didn’t think that past issues would hinder the campaign going forward.
“Paul’s telling his supporters that they should get behind our effort and I’m telling my supporters the same thing,” he said. “Hopefully, because we care about making marijuana legal, we’ll all get behind this campaign.”
Now, Boyer’s group will run Legalize Maine’s effort, which he said has roughly 40,000 signatures. It must submit more than 61,000 to the state by February to get on the ballot. The two campaigns, which will effectively merge, raised more than $198,000 combined by September’s end, according to state records.
However, Scott Gagnon, a substance abuse counselor and Maine director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, said in a statement that Maine shouldn’t legalize marijuana as it struggles with widespread heroin addiction and “policies that support health and wellness” should be advanced.
“That is not what will be offered by the combined effort to legalize marijuana,” he said.