- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2016

Legal marijuana opponents in Maine have mounted a challenge against the outcome of a referendum that likely saw the state narrowly approve recreational weed this week.

Following two days of counting ballots, the Associated Press and Portland Press Herald said Thursday that the referendum, Question 1, had passed by a fraction of a percentage point, effectively allowing adults in Maine to legally own and grow marijuana for non-medical reasons. Opponents aren’t convinced by their tally, however, and are officially gathering signatures in an effort to ensure a recount takes place.

The “No on 1” campaign has until 5 p.m. next Wednesday to collect 100 signatures in order for the Secretary of State’s office to reconsider the results and authorize a recount. Should they succeed, then a setting on an official tally could potentially take weeks, Portland’s WCHS reported Friday.

Unofficially, Question 1 succeeded by a vote of 381,060 to 376,658, according to the latest tally. The Secretary of State’s office has until 20 days after the election to certify the results, Augusta’s WMTW News 8 reported.

“The margin is razor thin, there are more than 375,000 people in the state of Maine that voted against this,” Newell Auger of No on 1 told WCHS. “It demands a careful, accurate result, and the idea that we are going to push on through when the margin is .005 [percent] is foolhardy.”

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

Assuming the unofficial tally hold true, then soon Maine residents will be permitted to cultivate, manufacture, distribute, test and sell marijuana and marijuana products. The state would tax marijuana at 10 percent, and allow cities and municipalities the option of implementing local rules governing retail sales.

Even if Question 1 succeeds, however, Maine residents might end up facing another obstacle prior to pot laws taking the books. Republican Gov. Paul LePage said he may try to block the law from taking effect, and told WGAN on Thursday that he’s waiting to hear how President-elect Donald Trump plans to enforce federal drug laws before taking action.

“If (Trump) enforces federal law, then I have no choice but to not put this into play and this is going to be a court battle,” the governor said.

Marijuana is prohibited under federal law, but the Obama administration has largely decided against intervening in states where the plant is approved for medical or recreational use. Mr. Trump has said previously that he thinks marijuana legalization should be considered on a state-by-state basis.

Maine would join California, Massachusetts and Nevada as states where recreational marijuana laws where passed Tuesday pending the results of a potential recount. Voters in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota passed medical pot laws this week, meanwhile, putting the total number of states with medical marijuana programs at 28 in addition to the District of Columbia.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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