One of marijuana legalization’s projected sure things for 2016 was dealt a significant blow earlier this week that could prevent Maine voters from having the opportunity to approve a recreational cannabis industry in the November election.

The Secretary of State’s office in Maine revealed on Wednesday that a proposed ballot initiative aimed at ending prohibition did not have enough valid signatures to be added to the ballot. It seems that while the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) submitted 99,229 signatures in February, the state is claiming that only 51,543 of them can be verified. This puts the initiative 9,580 signatures shy of being able to move on to the next phase of their campaign – a situation that could sabotage the entire effort. 

However, organizers argue that this shortcoming in qualifying John Hancock’s was not due to their incompetence, but rather a technical mishap for which they are exploring every possible remedy. Campaign manager David Boyer said he was “very disappointed” in the Secretary of State’s decision to reject the measure based on notary discrepancy that stands to disqualify thousands of voter signatures from this issue.

“Based on documents they have provided, it appears that more than 17,000 valid signatures from registered Maine voters were excluded from the count because the signature of a single notary — whose notary commission has not expired — did not exactly match the signature the state has on file for that notary,” Boyer told HIGH TIMES in an emailed statement. “We are exploring all legal means available to appeal this determination, and we sincerely hope that 17,000-plus Maine citizens will not be disenfranchised due to a handwriting technicality.”

The CRMLA’s proposal, which has been the subject of some controversy, would have created a fully legal marijuana market where adults 21 and over could purchase weed from retail outlets all over the state. Residents would have also been permitted to grow up to six mature plants for personal use.

Many among the state’s medical marijuana community have been less than impressed with the idea of Maine having a recreational market. Last month, while organizers for the campaign were in Augusta delivering tens of thousands of signed petitions to the Secretary of State’s office, medical marijuana growers and patients protested their efforts, calling them “scumbags,” because they feel the Marijuana Policy Project, the national advocacy group funding the campaign, is working against the patients.

If the CRMLA isn’t able to bring the missing signatures back into play, medical marijuana supporters may get their wish of keeping the Marijuana Policy Project out of Maine in 2016. Unfortunately, however, by not working to eliminate prohibition for all, which the MPP’s proposal would have achieved, only the 17,274 patients registered with the state will have immunity from state laws against marijuana possession. This means all of those people not suffering from ailments such as cancer, chronic pain, and PTSD would still be subject to high-dollar fines and jail time.

Mike Adams is a contributing writer for HIGH TIMES. You can follow him on Twitter @adamssoup and on Facebook.com/mikeadams73.