Marijuana Legalization 2016: Maine Wants Recreational Weed—Added To Ballot

Supporters of Maine’s “Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol” celebrated the addition of their initiative to their general election ballot in 2016 on Wednesday. The initiative pushes for the legalization of recreational marijuana, as medical marijuana has already been legalized in Maine. While it’s unlikely that lawmakers in Maine will pass legislation legalizing weed for recreational use, the state could join four others (and the District of Columbia) by legalizing pot without a prescription if the residents vote that way.

As ABC News reports, the referendum proposal to legalize weed met the required number of signatures (61,1123) to be added to the ballot in November. The initiative surpassed that mark with just shy of 100,000 signatures. The state legislature voted on essentially the same laws last year. It was voted down by the House 98-45.

Marijuana laws in Maine

Way ahead of the current trend, Maine legalized medicinal marijuana in 1999. If voters in Maine vote for the initiative, it will mean anyone 21 and over in Maine will legally be allowed to grow and possess small amounts of marijuana. Relatively speaking, the current marijuana laws and penalties in Maine are fairly lenient. Possession of as much as 2.5 ounces of marijuana is considered a civil violation, with a maximum fine of $1,000. The maximum punishment for sale or distribution of marijuana is a $20,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

The initiative overcame an obstacle recently when the Secretary of State’s office declared that a number of the required signatures were invalid due to an issue related to a notary’s signature. When proponents filed suit, a judge ruled in their favor. The signatures were considered valid, the requirements were met, and now the citizens of Maine will get to vote on it.

David Boyer from the Campaign argues that having marijuana sold in government-regulated stores takes the marijuana industry out of the hands of drug dealers. Scott Gagnon, a major opponent of marijuana legalization in Maine, argues that residents won’t be in favor of legalizing pot when they realize it will give Maine a reputation as the “weed basket of the East.”

If passed, Maine would also see state-regulated businesses selling recreational marijuana. Sales tax for non-medicinal cannabis would be 10 percent. Other states voting to legalize recreational marijuana this year include California and Nevada.