The state of Maine saw the closest race of all the states with ballot initiatives aimed at legalizing marijuana for adult use. From the start of the night, the count kept going back and forth, looking like a ‘yes’ and then shifting back towards a ‘no’ and then deadlocked at around 50% for much of the night if you were watching live. By the end of the night, they still had not finished counting ballots and were unable to call a clear winner – however by Wednesday, the activists who ran the campaign were calling the win.
Also on Wednesday, opponents to the campaign, Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, were already making it known that they would likely be calling for a recount if the vote came out in favor of the initiative. The state of Maine does not automatically call for a recount when things run as close as this has – however, it can be challenged and recounted if there is 1.5% or less difference between passing and failing the initiative – and Question 1 certainly qualifies to be called to recount.
By late Thursday, the final count was in and the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol made the right call – they did indeed win in this election. However, it was closer than any of us would have guessed – coming to a win at 50.2%, by only 2,620 votes. With how close this was, it’s almost guaranteed that opponents will be calling for a recount – even if it will end up being a waste of time when the recount reveals the exact same numbers as we’re seeing now. It might not have been much of a majority, but the majority vote still wins regardless – making Maine one of 8 states to legalize recreational use of cannabis.
“We’re excited that Mainers have chosen to adopt a more sensible marijuana policy, a policy in which we are not punishing Mainers for using a substance that is safer than alcohol,” David Boyer, the campaign manager for the yes side, said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Even if the recount is called for, the chances are not likely that the first count was wrong, and there are many – including activists and lawmakers – calling for the immediate start on implementation of this measure. The sooner they are able to start establishing regulations as far as security, taxation and things like a seed-to-sale tracking system, the sooner Maine residents will be able to legally purchase cannabis, effectively slowing down and eventually putting an end to the black market.
While the commercial industry is unlikely to open before the start of 2018, come sometime in the next month or so (expected around 30-40 days) residents will be able to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces, grow cannabis in their homes and consume it – all without the fear of legal repercussions for the first time.