All across the country on Tuesday, Americans watched as impossibly close races played out between between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But in Maine, where Hillary won by 2.7%, a different razor-thin race emerged: marijuana legalization.
Recreational marijuana use was officially legalized in Maine on Thursday by a vote of 50.2% to 49.8% after a two-day tallying process, with the final count separated by just 2,620 votes. The passed initiative now allows adults 21 and over to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes and possess the marijuana that they grow.
Some restrictions apply to the newly-passed law, however: Marijuana may only be consumed in non-public places, and cities and towns have the right to prohibit or limit the licensing and operation of marijuana retail stores and other establishments. A 10% tax will be added to all marijuana sales, with the exception of medical marijuana, which Maine legalized in 1999.
Even before its narrow passage on Thursday, the Maine initiative has been plagued with challenges. Of the 99,229 signatures the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted in February to the Maine Secretary of State, 26,779 were deemed invalid. Ultimately, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap Dunlap determined the campaign didn't meet the 61,123 signatures it needed.
This was largely due to a discrepancy in a notary's signature on the submitted petitions, and it took an appeal and ensuing court battle for additional signatures to be certified and the initiative to be approved.
Maine's cannabis victory comes as part of a larger wave of newly-passed marijuana legalization, which many see as a bright spot in the otherwise contentious and divisive election results. California, Nevada and Massachusetts also legalized recreational marijuana use in this election, while medical marijuana was approved in North Dakota, Montana, Arkansas and Florida. With these new victories, recreational marijuana use is now legal in eight states, along with the District of Columbia.