SALEM, Ore.–

Oregon became the third state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use through popular vote on Tuesday.

The state joined twenty others and the District of Columbia that have legalized the drug in various contexts. Most states still prohibit it entirely, and of those that do not, most still limit it to medical use.

Oregon’s vote to legalize marijuana came after a long and divisive political battle, nearly passing in 2012 and finally passing on Tuesday after weeks of deadlocked opinion polls.

The final vote carried the proponents of legalization to victory with a decisive 54 percent in the preliminary returns. The measure will go into effect in July of 2015, with recreational shops to open the following year.

Oregon’s vote mirrored a similar ballot measure in Alaska, which will authorize a regulatory commission to reform the state’s marijuana laws. Commercial shops will likely open in 2016.

The two states that have already legalized the drug for recreational use have seen recreational shops and even a cannabis-flavored drink introduced. Proponents believe that the vote will push the legalization movement forward in their efforts to introduce the drug nationwide.

“In 2016 we’re going to push the ball forward in several states until we end prohibition,” said Portland attorney Leland Berger at an election-night celebration on Tuesday. Berger helped to write the marijuana law, and promised to continue advocating for legalization in other states.

Luke Douglas is a third-year law student, seminary student, professional political activist, syndicated opinion columnist, and in-demand speaker. He holds a Bachelors degree in communications. Contact him for consulting in campaigns, nonprofit organizations and fundraising.