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Pot Proposal Backers Hoping for Bernie Bounce

Backers of a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Maine say they have 60,000 more than the required signatures and look forward to being on the November ballot when lots of young Mainers should be headed to the polls. (RegulateMaine.org)
Backers of a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Maine say they have 60,000 more than the required signatures and look forward to being on the November ballot when lots of young Mainers should be headed to the polls. (RegulateMaine.org)
February 8, 2016

AUGUSTA, Maine – The nation will be watching New England on Tuesday to see how the presidential candidates fare in the New Hampshire primary, and backers of a Maine ballot proposal hope to ride a wave of young voter turnout in November.

David Boyer, manager of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, says he is excited about the prospects of Mainers getting to turn thumbs up or down on the legalization of marijuana when voter interest should be way up due to the presidential election.

"2016 is going to be a big year for voter turnout,” he points out. “Lots of young voters. If (Sen.) Bernie (Sanders) is the nominee there will be a lot of young people voting, and young people support this. They know that marijuana is safer than alcohol."

Last week, backers of the proposal turned in signatures of more than 100,000 Maine voters in support of the measure. The secretary of state has until next month to validate the signatures, and Boyer says that shouldn't be a problem. He says supporters turned in 60,000 more signatures than required.

Boyer says the ballot proposal is timely not only because more Mainers are likely to vote, but also because New England is combating far more potent drugs, such as heroin.

"Law enforcement has bigger fish to fry than adults using marijuana,” he stresses. “I mean, come on, look what's going on with the opiate problem in New Hampshire and Maine, all over this country.

“We need to let law enforcement focus on that and not be bogged down by people who are using marijuana. Nobody thinks that should be a priority for police anymore."

Gov. Paul LePage opposes the legalization on the grounds that he believes marijuana to be a gateway drug. Boyer says LePage is wrong about both that and the mood of local voters.

"Well, thankfully, this isn't up to the governor, this is up the voters of Maine, and the people have been ahead of the politicians on this issue for quite some time,” he states. “If you look nationally, we are over 50 percent for making marijuana legal, so this is the right time."

Boyer admits the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has its work cut out for it, because he says Maine voters are split right down the middle when it comes to being for or against legalizing pot.


Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME