Supporters of an ordinance that would ask York voters to legalize the use of small amounts of marijuana by people 21 or older say the question will go before voters in November, despite Monday night’s 3-2 vote by town selectman against placing the question on the ballot.

David Boyer, Maine director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a national organization that supports the legalization of marijuana, said his group plans to circumvent the Board of Selectmen’s vote by having a notary public certify the signatures on a petition containing 767 valid signatures of registered voters.

If that should happen, then the local question, permitting the use of one ounce of marijuana or less, will appear on the town’s Nov. 4 ballot.

“They can do it tomorrow,” Selectman Ronald Nowell confirmed after Monday night’s meeting ended. “It’s a state law. If the selectmen refuse to put it on the ballot, then state law gives them that option.”

Nowell and selectman Torbert Macdonald voted to place the marijuana question on the ballot, saying the question should be decided by voters. Chairwoman Mary Andrews and her colleagues, Robert E. Palmer Jr. and Jonathan O. Speers, voted against putting it before voters.

If Boyer and the legalization advocacy group – Citizens for a Safer Maine – follow through on their intentions, York would join South Portland and Lewiston.


Those cities already have scheduled a November vote on making possession of small amounts of marijuana legal. Citizens for a Safer Maine targeted those municipalities as test communities that could be indicators of how Maine would view a statewide legalization effort in 2016.

The proposals would have more political significance than practical effect since local police say they would enforce state laws against marijuana possession.

In July, Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted a petition with 100 signatures to the York Board of Selectmen. The selectmen voted 3-2 against placing the marijuana question on the ballot.

The group returned a second time Monday night with more signatures – 10 percent of the residents who voted in the last gubernatorial election – and the opportunity to have the question certified by a notary public regardless of how selectmen voted.

“We believe that there is a way under state law to place this on the ballot. We are going to explore that,” Boyer said Monday night.

Andrews, the chairwoman of the board, said state law has deemed marijuana an illegal substance. She said she would be violating her oath of office and the town charter if she were to put an invalid question before voters.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, an opposition group, praised the selectmen for taking a stand.

“SAM Maine applauds the York Board of Selectmen majority who stuck with their principals, upheld the town charter they took an oath to uphold, and again rejected the unlawful marijuana legalization ordinance put before them,” the group said in a statement.

“Frankly, were pretty disgusted that the Board of Selectmen would thumb their noses at this petition,” Boyer said. “It goes against the democratic process.”

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