- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Opponents of a Maine proposal to legalize recreational marijuana said Wednesday they are readying a request for a recount if the race is called in favor of the ballot initiative.

Results so far show voters for the proposal holding an edge of less than 1 percent. But the race remained too close to call with more than 95 percent of precincts reporting.

Scott Gagnon, the chair of anti-legalization advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine, said he isn’t ready to concede the race. He said opponents of legalization are considering their next move, which could be a request for a recount.

Gagnon and others have framed their opposition to legalization as about protecting Maine’s children from dangerous drugs. “It’s about the fundamental nature of our communities,” he said.

In Maine, there’s no automatic recount. But a recount can be requested with no financial cost for race results within 1.5 percentage points.

Backers of recreational marijuana held a rally outside Portland City Hall on Wednesday. They declared themselves the winners and said they were getting ready to work with the state to implement a legal marijuana program. They said they think marijuana will be available at retail marijuana establishments by 2018 at the earliest.

David Boyer, campaign manager for the Yes On 1 campaign, said he expects state bureaucratic hurdles, legislative hiccups and opposition from Republican Gov. Paul LePage would slow the rollout of legal marijuana to consumers. But, he estimated that personal cultivation could begin in 30 to 40 days, and said that some infrastructure was already in place because of the state’s medical marijuana industry.

“We have the opportunity that we’re not starting from scratch,” he said. “What the voters said is we want marijuana taken off the corner and put behind the counter.”

The ballot question asked voters if they want to legalize marijuana use for people older than 21. Proponents of the measure want Maine to join California, Nevada and Massachusetts in newly legalizing recreational marijuana use. Arizona voters shot down a similar proposal.

The Maine proposal would allow the state to cultivate, distribute, and sell marijuana and marijuana products. Marijuana would be taxed at 10 percent and subject to local restrictions.

Parents’ groups and some law enforcement organizations opposed the proposal. It also received scrutiny from members of the medical marijuana community, who fear it would replace the state’s medical program.

The campaign for approval statewide follows votes to legalize pot in the cities of Portland and South Portland in recent years. Lewiston shot down a similar proposal in 2014.

On other ballot measures Tuesday, Maine voters took these actions:

-Rejected a gun control proposal to require background checks before the sale or transfer of firearms among people who aren’t licensed dealers.

-Approved a plan to bring the ranked choice style of voting, also known as “instant runoffs,” to the state. Ranked choice voting allows voters to rank multiple candidates on the ballot.

-Approved a plan to put more money in the pockets of the state’s lowest wage earners - raising the hourly minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by 2020.

-Approved a $100 million bond issue for transportation-related projects such as construction and rehabilitation of highways and bridges.

Results were too close to call Wednesday on an initiative to add a 3 percent tax on residents making more than $200,000 per year. The additional money would be used to support public education.

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