AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Nearly a month after Mainers went to the polls, the recount of referendum Question 1 — the proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana — has begun.
Under the supervision of the Secretary of State, volunteers from both the Yes and No factions began recounting more than 770,000 ballots. Question 1 passed by only 4,070 votes, significantly less than 1 percent of the total. Opponents of the referendum conducted a petition drive to force the recount.
Many people are eager for the issue to be settled so they can know if the new law will take effect. Members of the incoming Legislature have said they face months of work to craft the rules and regulations to govern the marijuana program. And a number of towns and cities are also anxious to have the vote decided because they, too, will need to create local rules to regulate retail sales and licensing of marijuana stores.
In Rockland, Mayor Will Clayton told NEWS CENTER the city council would begin a "community conversation" Monday night to determine how the city should handle marijuana stores and the so-called "social clubs," which will be similar to bars, where people smoke marijuana.
Some communities have already enacted local, six-month moratoriums on commercial sales of marijuana, but Clayton said he does not think there is an urgent need for such a step. He said the Legislature will first need to create the statewide rules and enforcement system. Legislative leaders have said that process is likely to take much of the coming year.
But the issue is clearly divisive. The statewide vote was echoed by a survey last week by Rockland Main Street, a downtown promotion and marketing group. The survey asked business owners and residents if they wanted a marijuana store in the downtown area.
According to RMS director Gordon Page, 40 percent supported a store, 45 percent opposed it and about 14 percent indicated they were not sure. When the question was about locating a marijuana store anywhere in the city, Page said just over 50 percent said yes.
As for the recount, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap said the count is starting with the five largest cities. He said that should be completed by the end of the week. After that the count will move to progressively smaller communities, along with any specific towns or cities opponents want counted early.
Dulap said no results will be released to the public until the recount is concluded. He said it would be "unprecedented" for a recount to change 4,070 votes.