A group opposed to the recreational marijuana legalization referendum in South Portland has reported to police that its campaign signs were stolen over the weekend.

City Councilor Maxine Beecher, chairwoman of the SoPo Says No to Pot group, filed the complaint Monday, said Police Chief Edward Googins. A number of campaign signs put up Thursday were removed sometime before Monday, but Googins said he did not know the exact number or location of the signs reported missing.

South Portland residents will vote Nov. 4 on a proposed ordinance that would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Lewiston will vote on a similar ordinance. Marijuana use remains illegal under state and federal laws.

In South Portland, both the city council and school committee have passed resolutions opposing the ordinance.

Googins said it is not unusual for his department to handle reports of missing campaign signs, but this is the first complaint this year. Anyone caught stealing signs could face a Class E theft charge and a civil penalty of up to $5,000.

“From all accounts no other signs are being disturbed so this is clearly targeted on the anti-marijuana campaign signs,” said Scott Gagnon, director of Smart Approaches of Marijuana Maine, which opposes the legalization referendums. “This is very disturbing and is a clear attempt to silence and disenfranchise citizens exercising their civic freedom to campaign for the good of their city.”

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group leading the legalization movement in Maine, strongly disputed any suggestion that supporters of his group might be involved.

“It’s disheartening to see our supporters accused of a crime without any evidence to back up the allegation,” he said in a statement Monday night. “Like most campaigns, our signs go missing all the time, but we prefer to spend our time talking to South Portlanders about this issue instead of making wild accusations against them. It appears our opponents have run out of ways to demonize marijuana, so they are resorting to demonizing those who support making it legal.”

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