On Monday, two pro-marijuana groups in Maine – the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol and Legalize Maine – agreed to join forces to support a 2016 ballot initiative legalizing its use for recreational purposes. Combined, the two organizations have collected about 40,000 of the 61,000 signatures needed by next January to put the issue on the ballot.
“Either of these campaigns could be successful on their own, but together we can put our best feet forward in 2016. The voters are ready to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy,” wrote Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine, in a press release.
David Boyer, campaign manager for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, added: “We had some differences of opinion on some of the specifics, but our initiatives were largely similar overall.”
Anthony Johnson, a pro-marijuana activist, noted that the groups’ collaboration “greatly enhances the chances that Maine will legalize marijuana in 2016” but cautioned that the effort will still demand “very hard work” to draft “the text of a measure that can win at the ballot box, secure the funding necessary and keep cannabis law reform advocates satisfied.”
Since 2012, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, and Oregon, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized recreational marijuana. As more states have accepted the practice, Americans’ attitudes about the drug have shifted. According to a Gallup poll conducted earlier this month, 58% of adults nationwide favor legalization while 40% continue to oppose it. No state-wide survey of Maine voters regarding marijuana legalization has been released to the public.
Proponents of legalization contend that decriminalizing and regulating marijuana use will boost the economy, create jobs, allow law enforcement agencies to focus on more important matters, and lift a prohibition that turns thousands of non-violent citizens into criminals.
Opponents highlight research that suggests that frequent marijuana use has detrimental neurological and physiological effects, and may even be addictive to some people. They also argue that legalization will promote more widespread use of illicit substances and jeopardize young adults’ professional and academic success.