Maine voters passed measure legalizing marijuana use: official

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[December 22, 2016]  BOSTON (Reuters) - Maine voters have made the state the eighth in the United States to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, state officials said on Wednesday, following a recount of votes on a ballot initiative.

The measure passed by 3,995 votes with the support of 381,768 people, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said in a statement. That was a slightly narrower margin of victory than the 4,073 vote gap reported following the Nov. 8 election.

The measure now goes to Governor Paul LePage, who has 10 days under Maine law to issue a proclamation of the vote results. It would take effect 30 days later, setting the stage for the drug to become legal for adults over 21 beginning late next month.

The result makes Maine the second state in the northeast to legalize recreational use of the drug, as voters in nearby Massachusetts approved a similar measure last month. Marijuana became legal to use and posses in limited quantities, but not yet to buy, in that state last week.

LePage, a Republican, said earlier this week during a radio interview that he intended to seek legal advice before signing the proclamation, since the drug remains illegal under federal law.

President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office on Jan. 20, has sent mixed signals about his views on it.

During the campaign, Trump, a Republican, said that marijuana legalization was best left to the states. His pick for attorney general, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has criticized Democratic President Barack Obama's administration for not enforcing the federal ban aggressively enough.

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Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the California Heritage Market in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on July 11, 2014. REUTERS/David McNew/File Photo

An October opinion poll by Gallup showed that 60 percent of Americans now support the legalization of recreational use of marijuana. Even more approve of the idea of legalizing marijuana for medical use, a step that 28 states have taken.

In addition to Maine and Massachusetts, voters in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, California, Nevada and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of the drug.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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