Maine marijuana legalization
The Maine Secretary of State’s Office said Monday it has certified the signatures on two recount petitions and is now arranging to hand-count more than 700,000 referendum ballots cast for and against marijuana legalization and a tax surcharge for education.
The office is working on scheduling and logistics, and plans to announce a date and time soon when the work will begin, said Kristen Muszynski, director of communications for the office.
Both Question 1, Maine marijuana legalization , and Question 2, which would add a 3 percent tax surcharge on individual income over $200,000, were narrowly approved on Nov. 8, based on the secretary of state’s unofficial results.
The marijuana question passed by 4,073 votes, 381,692 to 377,619, less than 1 percent, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.
Unless the recount reveals errors that change the outcome, the referendum proposal will make it legal for adults at least 21 years old to buy and possess up to 2½ ounces of marijuana. It also will allow retail stores and social clubs in communities that allow them, and put a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.
Marijuana use and possession would become legal by Jan. 7. However, it could take a year for the state to set up licensing rules to allow the first marijuana stores and social clubs to open for business.
Maine was one of four states that voted this month to legalize recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Eight states and Washington, D.C., now have voted to legalize a recreational cannabis market.
The proposal to impose a tax surcharge on high earners appears to have passed by a margin of 9,536 votes, just over 1 percent. An unofficial tally from the Secretary of State’s Office shows 383,449 votes in favor of Question 2 and 373,913 opposed.
Question 2, which would add a 3 percent surcharge on individual taxable income above $200,000, would raise an estimated $123.8 million in 2017. That revenue would go into a designated fund to be used to meet the state’s requirement to provide 55 percent of school funding if the state’s General Fund appropriation falls short. Any money from the fund must be used for direct support, such as instructors’ salaries, not for administration.
It would be highly unusual for a recount to change the outcome of a statewide election.
The two statewide recounts will take at least a month and combined will cost taxpayers more than $500,000, including staff time and other internal costs, the Secretary of State’s Office said.