AUGUSTA — The two campaigns that have been jousting to put competing marijuana legalization questions on Maine’s 2016 state ballot have coalesced behind one plan, organizers announced Monday.

It ends an awkward and often rancorous duel that has divided marijuana advocates and potentially scared away large national donors that would have happily given to the effort to legalize marijuana in Maine under normal circumstances.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a group backed by the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a news release that it will now run the effort in support of a similar legalization question proposed by Legalize Maine, an organization formed by state medical marijuana advocates last year.

Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine, called the announcement “a major milestone on the path to ending marijuana prohibition in Maine” in a news release.

Legalize Maine’s proposal is similar but more permissive in some respects than the one proposed by the Marijuana Policy Project. For example, it would make up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana legal instead of the national group’s 1 ounce, and also features cheaper fees for cultivation licenses.

The two groups have been negotiating for months in private over combining the effort and their differences have spilled into the public eye.

In August, McCarrier accused the Marijuana Policy Project of walking away from negotiations, saying it wanted “a cookie-cutter model across the whole nation” that won’t work for Maine.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said negotiations had stopped because McCarrier was trying to “trick” him about Legalize Maine’s willingness to work together.

But that animosity wasn’t apparent on Monday.

“We can more effectively accomplish our shared goal by combining our resources and working together instead of on parallel tracks,” Boyer said in a statement.

But Scott Gagnon, the director of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, the top organization formed to oppose legalization, said the joining of the two campaigns was a sign neither of the campaigns was having success collecting the needed signatures for their ballot question.

 “This is a clear signal that there is no appetite in Maine to legalize and increase access to an addictive substance,” Gagnon said in a statement issued to the press Monday.

He also said that Maine’s growing heroin and other opioid addiction problems and deaths were giving voters pause when it comes to marijuana.

 “I think Mainers understand that our young people do not start their substance use with heroin,” Gagnon said. “They experiment with drugs like tobacco, alcohol, and increasingly marijuana.”

Gagnon said recent research shows that people who use marijuana are three times as likely to develop a heroin addiction as those who do not.

“It is an absolutely tone-deaf policy proposal, to create another legal addictive drug industry while we are in the middle of this crisis,” Gagnon said.

Sun Journal State Politics Editor Scott Thistle contributed to this report.


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