Legality of Cannabis by U.S. Jurisdiction

Question 1: Citizen Initiative
An Act To Legalize Marijuana
Votes %
Yes 381,768 50.26%
No 377,773 49.74%
Valid votes 759,541 98.43%
Invalid or blank votes 12,120 1.57%
Total votes 771,661 100.00%

Maine Question 1, formally An Act to Legalize Marijuana,[1] is a citizen-initiated referendum question that qualified for the Maine November 8, 2016 statewide ballot. It was qualified for the ballot after a Maine Superior Court judge ordered that petitions rejected by the Maine Secretary of State be reconsidered. The proposal sought to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Maine for those over the age of 21, and institute a 10 percent tax on its sale. As the Maine Legislature and Governor Paul LePage declined to enact the proposal as written, it appeared on the ballot along with elections for President of the United States, Maine's two U.S. House seats, the Legislature, other statewide ballot questions, and various local elections.

According to uncertified results, the referendum passed by 50.3% to 49.7%, a margin of under 5,000 votes. On November 10, two days after the election, the Associated Press called the result in favor of the "Yes" vote.[2] However, opponents of the measure requested a recount and then withdrew their request on December 17.[3][4]

After the partially completed recount, the results were certified as 381,768 in favor and 377,773 opposed.[5] As of 2024, Question 1's results remain the narrowest margin of victory for any successful marijuana legalization measure in U.S. history.


The passage of ballot measures in Colorado and Washington in 2012 which legalize marijuana has led to efforts across the United States to do so. The use of marijuana for medical purposes has been legal in Maine since 1999.[6] Attempts by the Maine Legislature to legalize recreational marijuana have not succeeded, including one effort to put the question directly onto the ballot.[7] Some success in legalization has been seen at the local level, with Portland legalizing recreational use in 2013 by a wide margin.[8] It has also been legalized in South Portland but a legalization effort in Lewiston failed.[6]

Petitions for two separate groups to collect signatures to place a ballot measure on the 2016 ballot were issued by the Maine Secretary of State's Office, one on April 28, 2015 to a group called Legalize Maine, and another on June 3, 2016 to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is affiliated with the Marijuana Policy Project.[9] The two proposals were similar but Legalize Maine's was more permissible, legalizing up to 2.5 oz. for use by those 21 and older, as opposed to only 1 oz. under the MPP's proposal. It also called for a 10 percent tax on marijuana. Legalize Maine promoted their proposal as "home grown".[10][11] The two groups agreed to combine their efforts on October 26, 2015 and coalesce behind Legalize Maine's proposal, so that there would only be one legalization effort.[12] An effort by State Rep. Mark Dion (D-Portland) to pass a bill legalizing marijuana failed on June 22, 2015, largely because legislators did not want to undercut the petition gathering effort. Dion had felt that the Legislature should get out in front on this issue to avoid having to fix a poorly written referendum proposal later.[13]

Supporters of legalization turned in 99,929 signatures to Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap on February 1, 2016. A small group protested those delivering the signatures outside the Secretary's Office, objecting to out of state groups being involved in the legalization effort.[14][15]

Status of petitions[edit]

Dunlap announced on March 2, 2016 that the petition gathering effort had failed and the issue did not qualify for the ballot. He stated that his office could only validate 51,543 signatures, well below the 61,123 required to get to the ballot. 13,525 signatures were rejected as not belonging to registered Maine voters, and a smaller number was rejected for various other errors. The largest number of signatures rejected, 31,338, was due to signatures of a notary public and petition circulators who signed the oaths on the petitions not matching those on file with the Secretary of State's Office. Dunlap stated that "We’re not saying any malfeasance was or wasn’t done, that’s not up to us to determine. Our goal isn’t to invalidate signatures. The goal is to make sure they are valid." [15] Supporters immediately announced that they would appeal the decision to Maine Superior Court, stating that "we sincerely hope that 17,000-plus Maine citizens will not be disenfranchised due to a handwriting technicality."[15][16]

One of the notaries in question, Stavros Mendros, publicly stated that he had signed the petitions but that given the sheer volume of papers he had to sign in a short amount of time, which he claimed was almost 15,000 papers, it would be almost impossible for him to write his signature exactly the same each time. The Portland Press Herald obtained copies of petitions and sent them to independent handwriting experts who stated that in their opinion the signatures were all within natural variations in handwriting and were likely from the same person. Supporters also criticized Dunlap's office for not using handwriting experts or discussing their concerns with supporters to validate the signatures.[17]

Judge Michaela Murphy ruled on April 8, 2016 that the rejected petitions should be reinstated for consideration. In her opinion, Murphy stated that Dunlap had committed an error of law by applying an "overly burdensome" interpretation of the law. Murphy explained that signatures gathering and oath administration are often done under less than ideal conditions and that requiring perfect signature reproduction on each form signed was unreasonable.[18][19] Dunlap announced on April 13 that he had declined to appeal the decision and would begin re-reviewing the previously rejected petitions.[20]

Dunlap announced on April 27 that about 11,000 previously invalidated signatures were found to be valid, which meant that the referendum qualified for the ballot. The proposal went to the Legislature for consideration, but they declined to approve it and sent it to the ballot.[6][11] The question will appear on the ballot as "Do you want to allow the possession and use of marijuana under state law by persons who are at least 21 years of age, and allow the cultivation, manufacture, distribution, testing, and sale of marijuana and marijuana products subject to state regulation, taxation and local ordinance?"[21]


Maine Attorney General Janet Mills expressed concern that the law as written would legalize marijuana use for all ages, calling the language of the bill "troublesome".[22]

Notable endorsements[edit]



Public opinion[edit]

Public opinion on the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maine
Poll source Date(s)
Margin of
% support % opposition % Undecided/Don't Know
Portland Press Herald/UNH Survey Center October 20–25, 2016 663 LV ± 3.8% 50% 41% 9%
Portland Press Herald/UNH Survey Center September 15–20, 2016 505 LV ± 4.3% 53% 38% 9%
Maine People's Resource Center March 5–8, 2016 557 LV ± 4.15% 54% 42% 4%
Critical Insights March 4–10, 2016 610 AV N/A 55% 41% 4%


On 5 December 2016 the state of Maine called for an official recount of the ballots regarding Question 1, a process expected to take a month or more and cost up to $500,000. The International Business Times reported that governor Paul LePage said:

... he would be taking up the issue with president-elect Donald Trump to find out if the incoming administration would enforce federal laws prohibiting legal marijuana use. However, if Trump decides to keep cannabis laws at the state level, LePage said he would accept the law.[31]

By December 16, around 30% of all ballots cast had been recounted, including those from Maine's largest city of Portland without any notable change in the results.[32] The recount was ordered suspended until after January 1, and the No on 1 campaign filled out the requisite paperwork to formally cancel the recount one day later.[4]


Election night[edit]

Question 1 Election Night Results[32]
Choice Votes %
Referendum passed Yes 381,692 50.27
No 377,619 49.73
Total votes 759,311 100.00
Registered voters/turnout 1,058,444[33] 71.74

After recount[edit]

Question 1 Results after Partial Recount[5]
County Yes Votes No Votes
Androscoggin 48.37% 27,374 51.63% 29,217
Aroostook 36.72% 13,015 63.28% 22,433
Cumberland 55.21% 96,146 44.79% 78,014
Franklin 50.46% 8,523 49.54% 8,366
Hancock 50.59% 16,476 49.41% 16,090
Kennebec 46.45% 31,186 53.55% 35,960
Knox 51.88% 12,162 48.12% 11,281
Lincoln 49.68% 10,870 50.32% 11,009
Oxford 50.21% 16,028 49.79% 15,897
Penobscot 45.64% 37,330 54.36% 44,466
Piscataquis 44.26% 4,150 55.74% 5,226
Sagadahoc 52.82% 11,660 47.18% 10,413
Somerset 45.80% 12,120 54.20% 14,345
Waldo 48.35% 11,129 51.65% 11,889
Washington 47.80% 8,003 52.20% 8,739
York 54.04% 62,824 45.96% 53,438
UOCAVA 73.68% 2,772 26.32% 990
Total 50.26% 381,768 49.74% 377,773

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Maine Citizen's Guide to the Referendum Election" (PDF). November 8, 2016.
  2. ^ Patrick Whittle, Marijuana to become legal in Maine; Question 1 passes with narrow margin, Lewiston, Maine: Associated Press – via Sun-Journal[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Opponents push for recount over outcome of Maine’s recreational marijuana vote
  4. ^ a b Quimby, Beth (17 December 2016). "Opponents drop recount effort, acknowledge that Maine voters approved legalized marijuana". The Portland Press-Herald. MaineToday Media. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Tabulations for Elections held in 2016". Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions. Maine Department of the Secretary of State. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d "Mainers poised to vote on marijuana legalization in November". WGME. 2016-04-18. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  7. ^ "Bill to schedule statewide vote on marijuana legalization falls by 4 votes in Maine House — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  8. ^ Posted November 5, 2013 (2013-11-05). "Portland voters legalize marijuana - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram". Retrieved 2016-11-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ "Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  10. ^ Cousins, Christopher (2014-11-18). "Second group forms to push 2016 marijuana legalization referendum in Maine — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  11. ^ a b "Recreational Pot Measure Headed for Maine Ballot | Maine Public". 2016-04-29. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  12. ^ Shepherd, Michael (2015-10-26). "Maine marijuana legalization groups agree to work together — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  13. ^ Moretto, Mario (2015-06-22). "Maine lawmakers soundly reject marijuana legalization bills — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  14. ^ Shepherd, Michael (2016-02-01). "Signatures stream into Augusta on 2016 referendum deadline day | State & Capitol". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  15. ^ a b c Cousins, Christopher (2016-03-02). "Citizen petition for Maine marijuana legalization fails — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  16. ^ Steven Nelson (March 3, 2016). "One Person's Handwriting Derails Maine Pot Legalization Initiative". US News.
  17. ^ Posted April 3 (3 April 2016). "State's rejection of pot petition signatures may be tough to defend, Telegram analysis suggests - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram". Retrieved 2016-11-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ TEGNA (2016-04-08). "Judge forces State to re-examine marijuana legalization signatures". Retrieved 2016-11-30.[permanent dead link]
  19. ^ Cousins, Christopher (2016-04-08). "Judge overturns Maine marijuana ballot question denial — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  20. ^ Shepherd, Michael (2016-04-13). "State declines appeal, raising ballot hopes for legal pot in Maine — Politics — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  21. ^ "Maine secretary of state revises wording of all five November ballot questions". Bangor Daily News. June 23, 2016. Retrieved June 23, 2016.
  22. ^ "Maine AG fears Q1 could let minors possess marijuana". October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Regulate Maine". Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2016-10-06.
  24. ^ The Editorial Board (20 October 2016). "Our View: Maine needs rational pot policy, so vote 'yes' on Question 1 - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  25. ^ Mario Moretto (October 6, 2016). "A DANGEROUS MIX". Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  26. ^ Mario Moretto (August 7, 2014). "LePage: State should take children from drug-users who won't enter rehab". Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  27. ^ "Maine agriculture chief opposes legalizing marijuana". Central Maine. Associated Press. November 2016. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Who's With Us?". Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 6, 2016.
  29. ^ "No on 1. It's not in Maine's best interests to make it easier to access marijuana". 14 October 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2016.
  30. ^ Wednesday - Nov 30, 2016 (2016-09-09). "Say "no" to Question 1 - The Ellsworth AmericanThe Ellsworth American". Retrieved 2016-11-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  31. ^ Janice Williams (5 December 2016). "Recreational Marijuana 2016: Maine Vote Recount On Question 1 Begins". Retrieved 2016-12-06.
  32. ^ a b Thistle, Scott (16 December 2016). "Outcome unchanged as recount on marijuana referendum is suspended until the new year". The Portland Press-Herald. MaineToday Media. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  33. ^ "REGISTERED & ENROLLED VOTERS - STATEWIDE" (PDF). Bureau of Corporations, Elections & Commissions. Maine Department of the Secretary of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 9 March 2017.

External links[edit]