A group pushing to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine has submitted a citizens initiative to the Secretary of State to start the process of getting the issue on the November 2016 ballot.

Legalize Maine, a political action committee formed last year, proposes to legalize and tax marijuana, with an emphasis on supporting local agriculture.

“It’s time to put the question before Maine voters. We are confident that Mainers will support our plan to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana as an agricultural product,” said Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine. “Marijuana has been an economic engine for Maine’s rural economy for the past 50 years and it’s time for Mainers to decide if they want to legalize that section of the economy or not.”

Legalize Maine is one of two groups pursuing a 2016 referendum to legalize pot. The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project also plans to gather signatures to get legalization on the ballot next year. That group led a successful drive to pass a legalization ordinance in South Portland last November but lost a similar vote in Lewiston the same day.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but Colorado and Washington state legalized the drug for recreational use in 2012. Last year, Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved measures to legalize recreational pot.

McCarrier said his group’s proposal could put Maine in line to become the first state to legalize marijuana through a homegrown initiative.

“This is a historic moment, not just for Maine, but for the nation. We are the first to put local people before national interests and focus on stimulating our local economies,” he said. “There is no need for a second initiative.”

Legalize Maine’s plan would allow adults 21 and older to possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana outside of their homes, require that 40 percent of cultivation licenses go to small-scale farmers and allow marijuana social clubs, where people could buy and use the drug. It would also tax marijuana sales at 10 percent, a higher rate that the one that applies to prepared food, lodging and liquor.

McCarrier said his group is aiming to collect 80,000 signatures statewide.

To qualify for the ballot, Legalize Maine will need to collect 61,123 valid signatures, or 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor last November, according to Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office. She said it will take the department about six weeks from receipt of the application until petitions are available for circulation. The final deadline to submit petitions to be placed on the 2016 ballot has not been set.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Maine formed last year to oppose legalization, citing concerns about public health and safety.

“SAM Maine does share common ground with Legalize Maine in rejecting letting into Maine the (Washington) D.C. Big Marijuana corporate interests who want to establish a commercial market in Maine,” Gagnon said. “As we’ve seen in Colorado, these Big Marijuana markets lead to marketing to youth and increases in public health and public safety risks, including increased emergency room admissions, increases use amongst youth and poisonings of children.”

Gagnon said even a local marijuana market will increase access to pot for youth and continue to normalize the drug.