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Maine Recreational Marijuana Measure Passes by Slim Margin

Susan Sharon
Maine Public

Two days after the election, the Associated Press is officially calling the results for Question 1 in Maine. With less than a fraction of a percentage point separating the yes vote from the no vote, AP is handing the victory to supporters of marijuana legalization.

Question 1 would set up a framework to regulate, tax and sell recreational marijuana in Maine. Opponents have not ruled out asking for a recount and they have until next Wednesday to make the request.

Meanwhile, supporters say they are grateful to Maine voters and ready to start working toward implementation.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful for your support. Thank you for knocking, calling, talking and donating. Without you, we could not have won," David Boyer, campaign manager of Yes on One, said in an emailed statement Thursday night.

For former state Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, the vote is especially meaningful. Russell sponsored several marijuana legalization bills in the Legislature beginning in 2011, when she says she was met with skepticism and hostility at City Hall.

“A small group of us came out and I released the first legalization bill in decades, I think, in this state and it was the only one that year in the country. Someone showed up and had taken the time to hand sew ‘Jail Diane Russell’ on the back of their sweater. If anybody knows where that sweater is, I’d like it,” she says.

At the time, the Portland Press Herald also editorialized against the proposal, saying Russell was “getting into mischief.” But Russell says over the years it has been gratifying to see the paper follow the issue closely and gradually change its position.

It took five and a half years, but during that time Russell also was involved in a local effort to get Portland voters to approve a local ordinance, largely symbolic, to make recreational marijuana legal. The measure passed, making Portland the first city on the East Coast to take that stance.

The AP's call comes coincident with the counting of approximately 4,000 overseas ballots, of which 2,772 voted yes and 990 voted no.