(Reuters) - A Maine state official on Wednesday validated a petition by pro-marijuana activists that would allow the state’s voters to determine whether to make recreational use of the drug legal in the northeasternmost U.S. state.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap found that activists had collected enough verified signatures to be presented to state lawmakers for consideration, his office said in a statement. The state legislature has the option of approving the proposal as written or placing it on the ballot in November.
That move followed a ruling by a state judge earlier this month that overruled an initial decision by Dunlap’s office that almost half of the signatures gathered by the campaign were not valid, citing concerns that the signatures of notaries public on various forms submitted did not match up with versions on file in official state records.
The referendum would allow adults 21 and older to legally possess marijuana, while levying a 10 percent tax on recreational sales. Marijuana use in public would remain illegal.
Maine Governor Paul LePage has publicly opposed the measure, saying he believes marijuana is a “gateway drug” that leads other sorts of narcotics abuse.
Voters in four U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have legalized the recreational use of the drug in similar ballot initiatives. Advocates have pushed for similar referendums this year in a half-dozen other states, including Massachusetts and California.
Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Marguerita Choy