Not So Fast: Maine’s Legalization Win on Hold Thanks to Recount

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If you don’t succeed, there’s no need to try and try again. You do the next-best thing: challenge the results, and make the taxpayers foot the bill. 

Election Day saw voters in four states legalize adult-use cannabis. Of the four, Maine’s Question 1 won by the slimmest of margins: 381,692 votes for to 377,619 votes against, a margin of victory of 4,073 votes or less than one percent, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State. 

The win means possession of up to two-and-half ounces of marijuana will be legal for adults 21 and up beginning Jan. 7—but now the “win” is subject to the results of a taxpayer-funded recount, demanded by the sore losers in charge of the fact-challenged opposition campaign.

In Maine, it’s very easy to demand a recount if the results are within 1.5 percentage points. All you need is 100 signatures from registered voters, and then the state begins a lengthy process of counting more than 750,000 ballots by hand. 

Maine’s recount may last “at least a month,” according to the Portland Press-Herald.

While the campaign against legalization is couching its desire for a recount in concern for Maine’s youth, legalization’s supporters are predictably calling the recount a giant waste of time and money motivated by a refusal to accept the obvious rather than by any kind of lofty desire for the common good.

“The people of Maine have spoken and they have voted ‘yes’ to make marijuana legal, as have millions of other Americans across the country,” said David Boyer, campaign manager for Yes on 1, in comments to the Press-Herald. “Just as keeping marijuana illegal has been a waste of taxpayer dollars, we think this recount will be a waste of time and taxpayer dollars.”

The recount is not expected to change anything.

Legalization will only be reversed if errors in the counting process are discovered, according to the paper, and recounts “rarely” change the initial results of elections.

But the recount will surely cost money. While an official timetable for the process’s beginning and end has yet to be released, the state estimates that logistics and staff time for the recount and a second recount involving an unrelated tax measure on incomes of more than $200,000 will cost a total of $500,000, the newspaper reported.

Voters on Election Day approved adult-use legalization in four states: California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine. Of those, only Maine’s result is in doubt, with legalization racking up a double-digit victory in California. Nevada’s measure passed by just under 10 percentage points, or 100,000 votes; and in Massachusetts, Question 4 won by 230,000 votes, or seven percentage points. 

A fifth state, Arizona, saw legalization lose by less than three percentage points. On the same day, medical marijuana won handily in Florida and surprisingly passed in Arkansas and North Dakota.

If the recount doesn’t succeed in halting legalization, there’s another, not-so-secret weapon: Donald Trump-supporting Gov. Paul LePage. 

A reactionary hero with a relationship to the truth that can best be described as flexible, LePage did his best to derail legalization with baseless fear-mongering.

After telling no fewer than six lies about marijuana legalization in the span of a 74-second video failed to scare Mainers into rejecting legalization, LePage told reporters that he planned to ask President-elect Trump if a Trump Justice Department would “enforce federal law against marijuana possession,” according to the Portland Press-Herald

And considering Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s choice for attorney general, once said that he considered the Ku Klux Klan an alright bunch of guys until he discovered they smoked marijuana, LePage has a trump card that can’t be discounted, meaning marijuana legalization may have to win more than twice to finally enjoy victory in Maine.

You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.

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