April 8, 2015

Will Competing Maine Marijuana Legalization Campaigns Doom 2016 Efforts?

April 8, 2015
portland maine marijuana legalization

maine marijuana legalizationIn a perfect world, there would never be competing marijuana legalization efforts. Everyone would work together, and pool all of their collective resources, and get behind one campaign. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. Everyone can agree on the end goal of ending marijuana prohibition, but when details, pride, ego, and money are added into the equation, factions are created fairly quickly. I have seen it happen time and time again, with most of the time creating an end result that is undesirable.

California is a great example. In 2012, 2014, and now in 2016, there are multiple efforts to legalize marijuana. Some of the reasons for the different initiatives are valid, and some of them don’t make sense to me. It’s tough to say what would have happened in 2012 and 2014 had everyone banded together. Maybe California would have legalized marijuana, maybe not. But we do know for a fact what happened when everyone wasn’t on the same page – defeat. Will that be the case in 2016? Only time will tell.

I saw a similar thing happen in 2012 in Oregon. There were multiple efforts to legalize marijuana, with two (OCTA and OMPI) being the most high profile efforts. OCTA made the ballot, but didn’t receive hardly any support from the campaign teams from the other initiatives, which contributed to its defeat. Although, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t the only contributing factor. Bad initiative language and a lack of a campaign by the initiative’s backers also contributed. We almost saw that happen again in 2014, but I’m happy to say that thanks in large part to national funding for Oregon Measure 91, Oregon was added to the list of states that have legalized marijuana.

Maine is very high on my list of states that are next to end marijuana prohibition. Polling has been strong in Maine for awhile now, but there are competing efforts to legalize there, which could prove to be disastrous. There is a local effort, Legalize Maine, and a national organization backed effort by the Marijuana Policy Project, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. Both campaigns are gathering signatures, and from what media reports are hinting at out of Maine, they are not willing to work with each other. That is not uncommon when it comes to states where the Marijuana Policy Project is active, for better or worse.

There are also two efforts in the Maine Legislature to legalize marijuana. One is being spearheaded by Maine Representative Diane Russell (D-Portland), who has introduced similar legislation in the past. The other is being lead by Maine Representative Mark Dion (D-Portland). I’m not as concerned with the multiple efforts in the Maine Legislature as I am with the competing initiatives. When it comes to legislative legalization actions, the more the merrier in my opinion, as many bills never see the light of day. But with initiatives, efforts need a strong combination of national dollars (like that from the Marijuana Policy Project), and a strong coalition on the ground (like with Legalize Maine). Without one of the ingredients, success will be very difficult. It’s not impossible, but trying to end a decades old prohibition of marijuana is not an easy task in any state, and splitting resources instead of combining them makes it even harder.


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