The group pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in three Maine communities filed a complaint Wednesday in York County Superior Court seeking a temporary injunction requiring the York Board of Selectmen to place the question on the November ballot.

The town selectmen have twice refused to forward the proposed ordinance to referendum, saying it is not lawful because marijuana use is illegal under state law.

Supporters collected a total of nearly 1,000 signatures on two separate petitions in their bid to put the question to voters.

York selectmen in August voted against putting the measure on the ballot after receiving the initial petition with 100 signatures.

Supporters of Citizens for a Safer York and the Marijuana Policy Project collected 767 additional signatures to bring the matter before the board a second time, but the board voted 3-2 last week against sending the question to voters.

“The right to petition your government is the bedrock of democracy. For the selectmen to ignore the will of their constituents goes against what our country is all about and that is why I signed on to this case,” Sharon DaBiere of York, a plaintiff in the complaint, said in a statement issued by the Marijuana Policy Project.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said selectmen “clearly went out of their way twice to disenfranchise these voters.”

“We cannot stand by and let elected officials try to silence the people of York who would like to see marijuana regulated like alcohol.”

In its court filing, the group’s attorney, David A. Lourie of Cape Elizabeth, asks that a hearing on the complaint be held as soon as possible.

Lourie hoped a hearing could be held Thursday or Friday.

Friday is the deadline for the York town clerk to receive a warrant from town selectmen certifying the question to be placed on the November ballot. Town Clerk Mary-Anne Szeniawski said she needs authorization by Friday so that absentee ballots can be printed and made available to voters.

“It’s not my problem,” Lourie said Wednesday night, referring to the town’s printing deadline. “If this drags on, the town may have to reprint their ballots because they are the ones, who failed to comply with the town charter.”

Attempts to reach the town’s attorney, Mary Costigan, were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The South Portland and Lewiston city councils already have voted to place identical ordinances on the local ballots in November. Portland residents voted in 2013 to legalize recreational marijuana use.

The measures would change local ordinances to declare it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana in those communities. It would remain illegal to display or use marijuana in public.

However, passage of the referendum proposals will have more political effect than legal effect because police agencies have said they will continue to enforce the state law banning marijuana possession and use, except for certain medical reasons. Advocates of the measures say they hope to build momentum for a statewide legalization vote in 2016.

 

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: grahamgillian