11 States That Won't Be Legalizing Cannabis Any Time Soon

By Sam Stebbins and Thomas C. Frohlich

Illegal in the United States for nearly 80 years, marijuana accounted for 8.2 million arrests nationwide between 2001 and 2010. Despite the decades old federal ban, the country's attitude toward marijuana has been changing. While only 12% of Americans supported legalizing pot in 1969, 58% of Americans supported an end to marijuana prohibition in 2013.

All of the states least likely to legalize pot tend towards the conservative end of the political spectrum. In the 2012 presidential election, all of the states on this list voted for the conservative candidate. MPP's Mason Tvert explained that each state's history feeds into and partially explains its current culture and attitude.

For example, though federal alcohol prohibition ended in 1933 with the 21st amendment, Oklahoma did not repeal prohibition laws until 1959, more than a quarter of a century later. Since marijuana has been illegal for the entirety of most people's lives, "it makes them hesitant to make significant changes to marijuana policies," Tvert said.


While marijuana policy is largely a social issue, it is also an economic one. Extrapolating from tax dollars already collected from the legally regulated marijuana sales in Colorado, the Anderson Economic Group (AEG) estimates that national excise tax revenue could be as high $3.1 billion with prohibition repeal.

While nationwide legalization would certainly provide a lucrative stream of new tax revenue, it could also cannibalize major existing industries. According to the same report by AEG, a nationwide repeal of marijuana prohibition could result in a $221.4 million annual decrease in alcohol sales.

As more states decriminalize and legalize marijuana, federal law is more likely to change. Tvert said, "with social issues like this we tend to see an evolution take place, we tend to see dominoes fall and the pace will continue to pick up." In other words, national marijuana law reform will become increasingly more likely as more states join legalize recreational pot and join the ranks of Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Alabama

via alabama.gov

Max. fine for small amount: $6,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 3,600
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 74.7
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Marijuana use among Alabama residents is relatively rare. Roughly 9.7% of residents 12 years and older report using the drug, one of the lowest usage rates among all states and significantly lower than the national usage rate of 12.3%. Low useage may be the result of steep legal penalties for possession. Even after a reduction in the severity of the penalties earlier this year, second time offenders caught with any amount of marijuana face felony charges and up to five years incarceration.

Not all marijuana legislation introduced to the state legislature this year was signed into law. The senate killed a bill that would have established a medicinal marijuana program. With harsh possession penalties, low usage rates, and a demonstrable lack of political support, Alabama is among the least likely states to legalize marijuana in the near future.

Arkansas

via flickriver

Max. fine for small amount: $2,500
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 5,892
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 199.8
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Arkansas has a voter initiative process, and as Tvert explained, this could put progressive marijuana reform on the table in the near future. However, the state is still an unlikely place for full legalization. In 2012, voters in Arkansas did not pass a measure that would have allowed seriously ill residents to use medicinal marijuana without fear of legal repercussion. Two years later, after falling short by about 11,500 signatures of the 62,507 required, a proposal to legalize recreational use of the drug failed to even make it on the ballot. having a A reluctance to legalize marijuana in Arkansas may not be especially surprising as nearly half of all counties in the state ban alcohol sales.

Possession of four ounces or more in Arkansas is a felony punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Second time offenders in Arkansas will face felony charges for possession of as little as a single ounce. Prosecuting and arresting marijuana offenders is a strain on state resources. There were 5,324 arrests in 2012 for marijuana possession alone. According to the MPP, 91% of burglaries in the state and more than 90% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved in the same year, an indication resources allocated to crimes relating to marijuana may be better used elsewhere.

Georgia

via wikipedia

Max. fine for small amount: $1,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 30,611
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 308.6
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Despite recent legalization of non-psychoactive cannabis oil for medicinal purposes, marijuana legalization seems unlikely in the near future for residents of the Peach State. Even those who are prescribed cannabis oil for specific medical treatment face potential legal risks. Georgia currently does not allow for the production or distribution of the medicinal oil in the state, leaving patients little choice but to travel across state lines to obtain the medicine, a direct violation of federal law. While laws regarding the drug's medical use will remain strict, some legislators along with the majority of voters, support allowing cannabidiol to be produced and distributed within state borders.

An adult in Georgia caught in possession of more than 1 ounce of marijuana can face felony charges, a $5,000 fine, and a minimum of one year incarceration. Marijuana arrests are more common in Georgia than they are in most other states. There are roughly 309 marijuana-related arrests for every 100,000 state residents, significantly more than the corresponding national rate of 239 arrests for every 100,000 people.

Idaho

via npr.org

Max. fine for small amount: $1,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 4,060
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 254.4
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Idaho is home to some of the most draconian marijuana laws in the country. A first time offender caught with 3 ounces or less of the drug for personal use can face up to one year of incarceration along with a $1,000 fine. Possession of more than 3 ounces in Idaho is a felony punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Already, 23 states allow for physician approved use of medical marijuana, with many others poised to join the ranks as early as next year. Idaho, however, is not one of them. Earlier this year, the state legislature approved a bill that would allow seriously ill Idahoans to use low potency cannabis oils to treat specific conditions. Despite its relatively limited scope, Governor Butch Otter vetoed the bill before it became law. With strict criminal penalties and a demonstrated lack of political will for even modest legal reforms, Idaho is one of the least likely states to legalize marijuana in the foreseeable future.

Indiana

via indystar

Max. fine for small amount: $1,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 13,224
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 202.3
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

According to a 2013 statewide poll, 52% of Indiana residents support making marijuana a regulated substance — similar to alcohol and tobacco. Only 45% of those polled opposed such potential legislation. Despite a majority of residents' support for legalization of pot, Indiana is home to some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country. Possession of a single marijuana cigarette is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Second time offenders caught with 30 grams or more — the equivalent of about an ounce or more — of the drug face felony charges and up to two and a half years of incarceration.

Indiana attempted to pass legislation that would actually strengthen anti-marijuana laws by making penalties for possession even more draconian. Such legislation is uncommon in a year where progressive reforms largely defined marijuana use and possession. The proposed bills did not move forward, however. Roughly 11% of state residents 12 years and older report using marijuana, a slightly smaller share than the 12.3% national share.

Kansas

kansastravel

Max. fine for small amount: $2,500
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 6,095
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 211.2
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Despite a voter approved initiative decriminalizing possession for first time offenders in the city of Wichita earlier this year, Kansas as a state is not likely to adopt similar progressive marijuana reform anytime soon. State Attorney General Derek Schmidt claims the proposal in Wichita is unlawful as it directly conflicts with state laws. Even modest proposals, such as the medicinal use of cannabidiol to treat patients suffering from seizures, have been blocked in the state senate. Facing some of the strictest laws in the country, second time offenders caught with as little as a single gram will face felony charges, up to three and a half years incarceration, and a $100,000 fine. Perhaps due to harsh penalties, the state has the lowest pot usage rate in the country. Only 8.2% of state residents aged 12 years and older use marijuana.

Oklahoma

via okhouse.gov

Max. fine for small amount: N/A
Marijuana related arrests in 2012:
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 252.3
Minimum penalty classification: N/A

Like a few other states with relatively harsh pot laws, cannabidiol (CBD) is now slightly more accessible for seriously ill patients in Oklahoma than it has been in the past as a result of recent legislation. It is important to note that CBD is not psychoactive, so while legalization advocates have praised the development, the move will likely not pave the way to full legalization any time soon.

Oklahoma is home to some of the harshest marijuana laws. Possession of any amount of marijuana can result in incarceration, and a second offense is an automatic felony. Oklahoma's government has also expressed its disapproval of legalization. Along with Nebraska, the state filed a lawsuit against its neighbor Colorado, where recreational pot is legal, for violating federal anti-drug laws. State attorneys argued the violation has led to more illegal drugs passing across state lines. The U.S. government has urged the Supreme Court to reject the case.

South Dakota

via capitolshots

Max. fine for small amount: $2,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 2,734
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 328.1
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

In South Dakota, possessing 2 ounces or more of pot could result in a felony charge, prison time, and up to $30,000 in fines. There is not much of a political will to change these laws either — no drug reform laws were even proposed in the South Dakota legislature in 2015. The harsh marijuana laws in South Dakota likely serve as a deterrent. As in a majority of states with relatively severe marijuana laws, South Dakota residents are among the least likely to use the substance. Fewer than one in 10 residents 12 years and older report a pot habit, among the lowest proportions nationwide.

While federal marijuana laws often differ from state laws, there are differences even within states. Some tribes have relatively lenient marijuana laws inside the reservations. This is further complicated when states have strict pot rules. The first tribe to legalize marijuana, the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe in South Dakota, burned its entire crop in November due to fears of federal raids.

Tennessee

via blufton.edu

Max. fine for small amount: $250
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 23,488
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 363.8
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Tennessee passed a law earlier this year similar to Georgia, allowing people susceptible to seizures to legally use non-psychoactive cannabidiol medicinally. But also like Georgia, without infrastructure supporting the sale of the medicine, most patients are unable to obtain the substance. Governor Bill Haslam has stated that broader medicinal marijuana laws will not likely find support. Along with restrictive and ineffective medicinal laws, Tennessee has relatively strict marijuana possession laws. While the penalty for first and second time offenders of possession of less than half an ounce of pot is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, a third time possession offender of any amount in Tennessee will face felony charges and up to six years of incarceration.

Like all states least likely to legalize pot in the near future, marijuana use among Tennessee residents is relatively rare. An estimated 9.9% of state residents over age 12 have used marijuana recently, a smaller share than in all but 10 other states. Despite low usage rates, marijuana arrest rates in Tennessee are among the highest in the nation. For every 100,000 state residents, there are 364 arrests, significantly more than the national arrest rate of 239 for every 100,000 citizens.

Utah


via dlmark.net

Max. fine for small amount: $1,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 5,641
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 197.6
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Utah's eastern neighbor, Colorado, recently legalized recreational marijuana use. While the close proximity may improve access for Utah's pot smokers, Utah will likely still be among the last states to legalize the substance. Getting caught selling marijuana in Utah could mean a felony charge and over a decade in prison. Merely possessing certain amounts of pot can also result in a felony charge in the state. Utah, however, regulates the use of limited concentrations of cannabidiol — THC oil — for specific medical treatment. A bill protecting medical marijuana users was narrowly defeated earlier this year.

As in most of the least likely states to legalize marijuana, relatively few Utah residents smoke pot. Just 8.8% of residents 12 years and older report the habit, a lower percentage than in every state other than Kansas. Utah residents also report the lowest alcohol consumption in the nation.

Wyoming

via wyofile

Max. fine for small amount: $1,000
Marijuana related arrests in 2012: 2,303
Marijuana arrests per 100,000: 399.5
Minimum penalty classification: Misdemeanor

Marijuana possession for personal use is severely punished in Wyoming. Even more severe is the penalty for marijuana use alone, which is up to half a year in jail in conjunction with a $750 fine. Further, those found in possession of more than three ounces of marijuana face felony charges, a $10,000 fine, and up to five years in prison. And there is no indication the state's strict laws are going to change anytime soon. The state legislature shot down a bill earlier this year that would have effectively decriminalized pot possession.

Presenting yet another obstacle, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is an outspoken critic of marijuana legalization. Earlier this year, Mead told the state's Marijuana Impact Assessment Council during its inaugural meeting that legalization in other states has led to increased trafficking of other, still illegal drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin indicating Mead is not likely to change his mind in the near future.

source: 247wallst