Marijuana Opponents Consider Recount in Maine

By Kelly Burch 11/16/16

A measure legalizing recreational use passed by a thin margin on the Nov. 8 ballot. 

Marijuana Opponents Consider Recount in Maine

Maine voters passed a measure to legalize the recreational use of marijuana last week, but the Schedule I drug faces additional hurdles in the state, with opponents demanding a recount and the governor saying that he will try to block the measure. 

Maine’s Question 1, which legalized marijuana for people over 21, passed with 50.2% of the vote, compared to 49.8% of voters who opposed the measure, according to the New York Times. Only 2,600 votes separated the sides according to the Times. However, some sources report up to a 4,402-vote difference, separating the sides by less than 1% of the vote. 

Although the Associated Press and other news outlets called the results in favor of the measure, the state has not officially spoken on the results.

The No On 1 campaign is currently collecting the 100 signatures needed to demand a recount of the vote, according to the Portland Press Herald. The petition will have to be turned in by Wednesday evening in order to proceed with the recount. 

Scott Gagnon, campaign manager for No On 1, said that he's received phone calls and emails from residents concerned about the passage of legalized recreational marijuana. 

“These Maine voters are encouraging the coalition to stand firm, as the stakes are incredibly high for Maine’s youth and Maine’s medical marijuana program,” Gagnon said. “It is our duty to exercise all rights available to ensure that the final results are a fair and accurate representation of the will of all Mainers.”

Because the margin is less than 1.5%, the cost of the recount (approximately $500,000) will be handled by state. Proponents of the measure say that spending the massive sum is unnecessary. 

“We are talking thousands of votes difference,” David Boyer, manager of the Yes on 1 campaign, told the Washington Times. “I just don’t see them making up that ground. Those votes can flip our way. We are ready to move forward with implementation.”

If the measure stands, it will take place 30 days after the governor proclaims the election results. That means that by December, it will likely be legal for adults ages 21 and over in Maine to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. According to the Herald, it would take the state about a year to establish a regulatory system before cannabis retail stores can open, while individual communities have the option of banning them.

A recount would likely take about a month. However, even without the recount, recreational marijuana faces difficulties. Governor Paul LePage said that he may challenge the vote, depending on how President-elect Donald Trump decides to enforce federal marijuana laws. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.