A leader of the group opposed to marijuana legalization said Monday that it will request a recount of votes on the statewide ballot question that passed by a narrow margin last week. Such a recount, involving more than 757,000 ballots, could take a month to conduct and cost the state $500,000, the Secretary of State’s Office said Monday. Mainers Protecting Our Youth and Communities, which opposed Question 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot, is circulating petitions to collect the 100 signatures needed to request a recount. Scott Gagnon, campaign manager for the group, said the petitions will be turned in to the Secretary of State’s Office before the deadline at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The unofficial tally shows 381,060 votes in support of Question 1 and 376,658 opposed, a margin of 4,402 votes, less than 1 percent, according to unofficial results collected from communities across the state by the Associated Press and Portland Press Herald. The totals include about 4,000 absentee ballots received by the state from members of the military and Mainers living overseas.
Maine was one of four states that voted last week to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Eight states and Washington, D.C., now have voted to legalize a recreational cannabis market.
In addition to a possible recount, Gov. Paul LePage has said he might challenge the referendum results. LePage said after the election that he will ask President-elect Donald Trump if his administration will enforce federal law against marijuana possession, before he decides whether to challenge the referendum vote.
The referendum proposal, if it stands, will make it legal for adults at least 21 years old to possess as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The law would take effect 40 days after the vote – or the week before Christmas. Marijuana stores and social clubs would likely not open for a year or so to give the state time to set up licensing and regulatory rules. Individual communities also may consider zoning rules for retail stores and social clubs, or ban them outright.