Recreational marijuana takes another step toward legalization in Maine

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap has certified the results of last month’s referendum to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine following the conclusion of a ballot recount over the weekend.

Dunlap announced Wednesday that the push for legalization, which was citizen initiated, won by 3,995 votes, which is a razor-thin margin considering nearly 760,000 votes were cast for and against Question 1. A ballot recount requested by the initiative’s opponents ended on Saturday after ballots from 42 municipalities were recounted in Augusta. The No on 1 campaign conceded and both sides signed off on the final tally on Tuesday, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Dunlap has sent the newly certified results to Gov. Paul LePage, who now has 10 days to issue a proclamation, according to the Maine Constitution. The law takes effect 30 days after the governor’s proclamation.

However, LePage has said he is soliciting legal advice about whether enforcing the law is legal. Despite Maine’s vote last month, marijuana remains illegal in federal law.

“I’m concerned that’s going to violate my oath of office which is, in fact, an impeachable offense,” he said during a radio interview Tuesday. LePage has also said that the Legislature will have to appropriate up to $5 million next year to establish bureaucratic infrastructure to handle regulation and taxation of marijuana.

The legislation allows the possession and use of marijuana people over age 21 and allows the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing and sale of marijuana products as long as state and local regulations are followed and 10 percent sales taxes are paid.

Christopher Cousins

About Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.