Proponents of recreational marijuana use celebrated a razor-thin win this Thursday, as Maine became one of the first in the Northeast to officially legalize recreational marijuana. But Maine residents are now in for a long wait before the new law is fully put into place — if it even happens at all.
Recreational marijuana use was officially legalized in Maine on Thursday after a close race that, as of Saturday, Nov. 12, was separated by just 4,402 votes. The new measure would allow Maine residents to legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and consume recreational marijuana in non-public places.
With such a close tally, however, opponents of the new law are expected to contest the results. The "No on 1" campaign that led the fight against legalization now must collect 100 signatures by 5 p.m. on Wednesday to persuade the secretary of state's office to authorize a recount, according to the Washington Times. In an interview with WCSH, No on 1 advisor Newell Augur emphasized this desire for a recount, saying the vote "demands a careful, accurate result, and the idea that we are going to push on through when the margin is .005 [percent] is foolhardy."
Another vocal opponent against the initiative is Republican Gov. Paul LePage, whose strong doubts about the law may prevent him from putting it into effect. According to the Maine Sun Journal, LePage suggested that he may wait to see what President-elect Donald Trump's position on marijuana legalization will be. Maine's newly-passed law conflict with federal laws prohibiting marijuana use, and unlike the current Obama administration, Trump could choose to strongly enforce these laws over state laws.
Though (at last count) the bill has won the approval of the people, LePage's approval is a crucial part of putting recreational marijuana use in motion. The new law can only take effect 30 days after LePage officially certifies the election results, meaning that no legalization efforts can go through until the governor is officially on board.
Once the 30 days following LePage's approval has passed, it will be officially legal for residents to possess marijuana and grow it themselves. However, buying the plant will still be difficult. Once the law is in effect, the agriculture department then has nine months to officially regulate the state's marijuana industry and approve its rules.
It's only after this nine month period — plus an additional 30 days —that the state will begin taking applications for marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities and marijuana "social clubs," similar to Amsterdam-style coffeeshops. All marijuana businesses will be subject to the approval of Maine's individual municipalities, which have the power to forbid any marijuana from being produced or sold within its limits.
Though legal recreational marijuana use may still be a few months away, Maine residents can currently take advantage of medical marijuana in the state, which has been legal since 1999.