I was pleasantly surprised yesterday to hear of the news that the petition from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was ruled invalid and would not qualify for the November 2016 ballot. This is great news for communities and public health in Maine. This result provides some solace that, at least for another election cycle, Maine youth will be protected from the Big Marijuana agenda. I do understand that the Marijuana Policy Project will likely be appealing the Secretary of State’s ruling. However, given that the Secretary of State’s office has already ruled several other initiatives valid for the November 2016 ballot, it would seem their practices for validating petitions are pretty rigorous and sound. So, I expect that this ruling will hold.
Now, however, as new reporting comes out on why almost half of the collected signatures were deemed to be invalid, I strongly believe that the Office of the Attorney General should launch an immediate and thorough investigation of the signature gathering operation of Marijuana Policy Project and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. I am a strong supporter of Maine’s citizen’s referendum process, however, I also strongly believe that the integrity of the process must be protected and defended. With deep-pocketed, out-of-state organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project coming into Maine trying to buy elections and change our laws to suit their agendas, it is paramount that these operations are held accountable if and when they violate ethics regulations. This is especially so when they are reported to have contracted signature gathering service with a consulting firm, Olympic Consulting, that is notorious for ethics violations around signature gathering efforts.
I am very troubled by some of the information that has surfaced around CRMLA’s petitions and the reasons for which they were invalidated.
- Over 31,000 signatures were invalid because the signatures of petition circulators swearing that they witnessed signature collection did not match their signatures on file. (Indeed, one circulator was listed as the public notary on an incredible 5,099 petitions containing 26,779 signatures.)
- Another 13,525 signatures were invalidated because they did not belong to a registered voter in the municipality where they were submitted.
It is very concerning that nearly 14,000 signatures didn’t match with a registered voter. I think this is one area where some questions need to be answered. How does this happen and why are there so many? This along with invalid notary and circulator signatures calls into question the integrity of the entire signature gathering process. A full investigation isn’t only warranted, it is absolutely necessary to protect Maine’s democratic process.