Voters narrowly approved Maine’s adult use measure in November, prompting opponents to call for a recount.
After being approved by less than a 1 percent margin of votes in this November’s election, Maine’s recreational marijuana initiative will undergo a formal recount beginning today, December 5. Question 1, if formally approved after the recount, would legalize the use and possession marijuana for recreational purposes for adults ages 21 and older beginning January 7.
Opponents of Question 1 had requested the recount after the unofficial results were so close.
Unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office had Question 1 winning by 4,073 votes, 381,692 to 377,619. The measure had been too close to call on election night.
The recount, which is done by hand and expected to take four to six weeks, will be conducted in the Florian Room of the Maine Department of Public Safety in Augusta. This is Maine’s first statewide recount that will include every ballot. The count will be open to the public.
“It would be highly unusual for a recount to change the outcome of a statewide election,” reports the Portland Press Herald.
The recount is expected to cost up to half a million dollars in staff time, overtime, and additional costs. The Maine State Police had to travel to 503 individual towns to pick up padlocked and sealed ballot boxes before delivering them to Augusta. Because the margin was so small, the opponents of the initiative are not responsible for recount costs.
Staff from the Secretary of State’s Office and 18 volunteers have formed counting teams. Each volunteer will count a collection of votes and then the totals are compared. Attorneys and campaign staff are overseeing the proceedings.
“Every day the implementation of this law is delayed there are adults out there who are subject to punishment for responsible use of marijuana,” Alysia Melnick from the Yes on 1 campaign told the Portland Press Herald. “And this delays responsible and effective implementation.”
The attorney representing the No on 1 campaign, Newell Augur, has said his campaign will regularly reassess the status of the recount and pull out if it’s clear there’s no likely change.
“We are not going to drag this out if it’s obvious the numbers aren’t moving,” Augur said.
Maine was just one of four states that had voted to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older this past election. California, Nevada, and Massachusetts passed similar adult use initiatives, while four states – Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota – approved medical cannabis measures. The new legal markets are estimated to be worth $7 billion to $8 billion in annual sales.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has been publicly against legalizing marijuana and has said he would work to delay the state’s recreational legalization process.
If Question 1 stands, adults will be legally allowed to use and possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and grow up to 6 flowering plants, 12 immature marijuana plants, and unlimited seedlings. A 10 percent tax will be applied to all sales, with revenue going to the implementation and regulation of the program. The law will take effect this coming January, but state officials would have up to nine months to create regulations for the recreational law.