YORK, Maine — The Marijuana Policy Project has gathered an estimated 200 signatures, twice the number needed to present a petition for legalization of pot to the Board of Selectmen, according to David Boyer, Maine’s political director for the national organization.
Boyer said Monday he had yet to set a date to give the petition to the town clerk. Once the signatures are verified, the petition would be expected to go to selectmen for their consideration for the November ballot.
The petition drive began in York on June 10, during the primary election. Similar petitions have been initiated in Lewiston and South Portland, prior to an effort for statewide legalization of marijuana in November 2016, according to Boyer.
As of Monday, the Marijuana Policy Project had collected an estimated 350 of the 859 signatures needed in Lewiston; and about 200 of the 950 signers needed in South Portland, according to Boyer.
Last November, Portland voters approved a referendum nominally legalizing recreational use of the drug in Maine’s largest city, although state and local law enforcement have said they will still enforce Maine laws against pot possession.
With low voter turnout last Tuesday, Marijuana Policy Project volunteer Nick Murray stopped pretty much everyone leaving the polling place asking them to sign the petition seeking the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in town.
Murray wasn’t able to get to the polls until 5 p.m., and a half-hour later seemed to have an equal number of signers and those, such as resident Bill Corbett, who politely told Murray, “Nope, forget it.”
Corbett said, “In today’s day and age with alcohol and drug abuse, I see it as having the same problem … to legalize the stuff compounds the problem.”
Others, such as resident Tony Ehret, signed the petition.
Ehret has been talking about the issue with family and friends, including those who are physicians and counselors, he said.
“The physicians and counselors are divided,” Ehret said. “It’s certainly not more dangerous than alcohol. I signed it, but I don’t smoke marijuana. I think it’s something we should vote on.”
Murray said Tuesday, “I find that people want to be educated about it. They see the current plan of action isn’t working.”
“It’s not making it safer,” he said of criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
An estimated six voters showed up at the polls specifically asking where they could sign the petition, according to Town Clerk and Tax Collector Mary-Anne Szeniawski.
One of those voters, who didn’t give his name, came back at 5 p.m. in order to add his name to the petition. He is a medical marijuana patient and a caregiver in town, he said, meaning he grows marijuana for other patients.
“I think it’s a great thing,” he said of legalization.
Another voter, Sarah Newick, said of legalization for recreational use, “I just don’t think it’s the best thing for the health of our youngsters.”
The petition asks voters to make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults age 21 and over. The measure would remove penalties for marijuana possession, allowing individuals to possess and consume pot privately, Boyer said.
Prohibition didn’t work for alcohol, and it doesn’t work for marijuana, a substance that is safer to consume than alcohol, according to Boyer.