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To the Bitter End: The 9 States Where Marijuana Will Be Legalized Last [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and originally appeared here.

Marijuana prohibition in the US is dying, but it isn't going to vanish in one fell swoop. Even if Congress were to repeal federal pot prohibition, state laws criminalizing the plant and its users would still be in effect -- at least in some states.

Meet the most bud-unfriendly states. (wikimedia.org)
And it's probably a pretty safe bet that Congress isn't going to act until a good number of states, maybe more than half, have already legalized it. That process is already underway and is likely to gather real momentum by the time election day 2016 is over.

Colorado and Washington led the way in 2012, followed by Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, last year. California, where one out of every eight Americans lives, is very likely to go green in 2016 via the initiative process, and so are a handful of other states, including Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. Longer shots next year (or even this year, in Ohio's case) are Arizona, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Rhode Islane.

But just as the end of federal alcohol prohibition in 1933 didn't mean the end of state-level prohibition -- Mississippi didn't end it until 1966, you couldn't drink in a bar in Kansas until 1987, and dry counties remain in a number of states -- ending federal marijuana prohibition isn't going to magically make it legal everywhere.

There are two critical factors to consider in assessing how likely a state is to get around to freeing the weed: public opinion and access to non-legislative (read: initiative and referendum) political remedies.

Opinion polls consistently show stronger support for legalization in the West and the Northeast than in the Midwest and the South. But barring access to the initiative process -- which only half the states have -- means that even in states where public opinion strongly favors legalization, residents are going to be beholden to the legislature to get it done. Note that so far, every state that has legalized it has done it through the initiative process. That could change this year, but it seems unlikely at this point.

But even having the initiative process isn't going to help if popular support is lacking. That's why some states make the list even though they have the initiative process. And even having public opinion on your side isn't going to guarantee victory in the legislature, especially if the Republicans are in control.

Here are the nine states least likely to legalize it anytime soon and, after that, a few brief notes on a handful of states:

  1. Alabama. This Heart of Dixie state still has several dry counties and about a third of the counties in the state are either partially dry or have localities that are dry. Although Democrats hold some local offices, Republicans dominate state elected offices and the state legislature. The state has no initiative process, and the legislature has so far failed to pass even medical marijuana legislation.
  2. Idaho. This heavily Mormon-influenced state has the initiative process, but so far even campaigners for medical marijuana haven't been able to qualify a measure for the ballot, so it's hard to see how they could get a legalization initiative on the ballot, let alone pass it. An Idaho Politics Weekly poll from February shows what an uphill battle it is. Only 33% of respondents favored legalization, with 64% opposed (and 53% "strongly" opposed). And the conservative Republican legislature is more concerned with fending off sharia law than legalizing pot, although it did manage to pass one of those no-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil bills this eyar.
  3. Kansas. Another state dominated by Republicans, with no initiative process, and little popular support for legalization, anyway. An October 2014 poll showed only 31% in favor of legalization and, distressingly, an ever larger percentage (33%) saying marijuana possession should be a felony. While voters in Wichita this week approved a municipal initiative decriminalizing pot, the state attorney general has already asked the state Supreme Court to overturn it. Kansas is another one of those states where the legacy of alcohol prohibition lingers, too: Almost all of its counties are either dry or semi-dry. Be glad you're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.
  4. Louisiana. The state has some of the country's harshest marijuana laws, including up to 20 years in prison for repeat possession offenders and up to life in prison for pot possession if the person has a previous felony. Efforts have been afoot in the state legislature for several years to fix those draconian laws, but have so far gone nowhere. An October 2014 poll showed roughly two-thirds supported fixing those laws, but that hasn't yet influenced Baton Rouge. Tellingly, the poll didn't even ask whether respondents supported legalization. And there is no initiative process, anyway. In Louisiana, not sending people to life for marijuana would be progress.
  5. North Dakota. At the top of that geographical tier of Great Plains states destined to be a bastion of reaction on marijuana legalization, the agricultural state has approved industrial hemp production (in part because North Dakota farmers can see their Canadian counterparts just across the border profiting from it), but is unwilling to move even on medical marijuana, let alone legalization. The legislature this year killed a bill to even study legalizing medical, and an effort last year to put a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot couldn't manage to qualify. An October 2014 poll found that even medical marijuana couldn't get majority support (47%), and the prospects for legalization were even grimmer. Only 24% supported legalization, with 68% opposed.
  6. Oklahoma. Good luck. The state government is dominated by Republicans and is one of the most conservative in the country. The state has the initiative process and state Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Oklahoma City) is likely to try again to get it on the ballot next year, but even if it were to make the ballot, it would likely get creamed. A poll this month found only 31% for legalization. This is also one of those states where alcohol prohibition still lives on; about a third of the state's counties are completely dry.
  7. South Carolina. There is no initiative process here, so it will be up to the legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. The legislature passed a no-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil last year, and Republican lawmakers have introduced medical marijuana and decriminalization bills this year, but they have yet to pass. The Palmetto Politics Poll last July barely had majority support for medical marijuana (53%), and didn't even bother to ask about legalization.
  8. South Dakota. The state has the initiative process, but it also has the dubious distinction of being the only state to twice defeat medical marijuana at the polls. The Republican-controlled legislature has repeatedly refused to act on medical marijuana bills and didn't even consider any marijuana reform bills this year. There is no recent polling on support for legalization, and given the performance of medical marijuana initiatives, even if a legalization initiative were to qualify for the ballot, it would get crushed.
  9. Utah. The Mormon heartland, another state where Republicans dominate the legislature and the executive branch, and another state where the only legislative concession to pot law reform has been the passage of a no-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil bill. A March poll found 72% of Utahns supported medical marijuana, but that didn't stop the legislature from quickly killing a medical marijuana bill this year. That poll didn't ask about legalization; the last one that did, from 2013, was not encouraging: It had 57% opposed to legalization. Utah has the initiative process, but that won't be much good until Utahns get on board with legalization.

Why Some States Didn't Make the Bottom 9

There are several states that some might have expected to see on this list, but who I think may surprise us and come around more quickly.

In the South and Mid-South, Mississippi and Arkansas would seem like good candidates to be among the last to legalize, but both states have the initiative process and some associated activism around it. They still have to get public opinion on their side, but they can circumvent sclerotic legislatures once they do. And there is hope that demographic trends will turn Georgia, of all the Deep South states, into a place where marijuana can be legalized at the state house before the bitter end.

On the Great Plains, Nebraska is the only state from Texas to Canada that didn't make the bottom nine. It's certainly as solidly conservative as the others and it just hates legalization next door in Colorado, but this is a state that decriminalized weed nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps one of these days, Cornhuskers will wake up and remember that.

In the Intermountain West, Montana and Wyoming share many of the same political and cultural characteristics as Idaho and Utah, but the influence of the Mormon Church isn't nearly as strong. Montana has the initiative process and has used it to approve medical marijuana, only to see that rolled back by Republicans and Christian conservatives. Wyoming also has the initiative process. In both states it will be a struggle between deeply rooted Western individualistic libertarian notions and equally deeply rooted Christian conservativism.

Alright, then. We'll have to check back in 2026 or so and see how prescient this was.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Cancer Patients Can't Wait!!!

For Cancer patients, for kids suffering from Seizures, and for so many others, safe, legal, access to Medical Marijuana is a matter of life and death. Its critical that Marijuana be removed from Schedule 1 immediately.

 Please call the whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and ask that the President get that to happen, to protect the health and safety of Americans that need Medical Marijuana. Have everyone else you know call them too.
I'm a Scientist with a strong interest in Cancer research. The clinical evidence of the value of Marijuana as a life saving medicine is now so strong that the need to remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 has become a moral imperative. Google Medical Marijuana testimonials. Google Medical Marijuana Cancer Patient Testimonials.

This weekend over 3,000 Americans died, in pain, of Cancer. Every single day, 1,500 Americans die of Cancer after suffering horribly. it. Every single minute another American dies of Cancer. Every American Cancer patient deserves the right to have safe, legal, and economical access to Medical Marijuana. Every single one.
Americans who need Medical Marijuana shouldn't be used as "Political Footballs" Please call the Whitehouse comment line at (202) 456-1111 and ask that the President take immediate action to remove Marijuana from Schedule 1 so American Physicians in all 50 states can prescribe it.

Oncologists have know it for more than a quarter of a Century that Marijuana is a "wonder drug" for helping Cancer patients
.
The American Society of Clinical Oncologists wants Marijuana removed from Schedule 1. So does the American Medical Association, the professional society of all Physicians. A strong majority of Americans want Physicians in all 50 states to be able to prescribe Medical Marijuana. So do their Physicians., Cancer patients can't wait.
\
The need to immediately, completely, legalize Marijuana throughout the world is one of the most pressing moral issues of our time, because of its medical benefits and because of the damage prohibition causes to America and to the world.

Complete legalization is critical -- its vital that there aren't "strings" or "hoops" that Cancer patients and others who need Medical Marijuana are forced to jump through
.
"Charlottes web" is NOT the solution. Cancer patients and people who suffer from chronic pain need THC, not just CBD. The "Berkeley study", where 96% of stage 4 Cancer patients who had a wide variety of Cancers achieved remission, used high dose Medical Marijuana oil, 72% THC, 28% CBD, 1 gram/day (oral) over a 90 day course of treatment. It was a small study, and not placebo controlled, but those kinds of results are clearly remarkable, have been widely reported on in the press, and demand the need for immediate large scale clinical trials.

More and more present and former members of law enforcement agree about the need to end prohibition, and have formed a rapidly expanding group of current and former undercover cops, FBI, DEA, prosecutors and Judges, from all over the world, called

LEAP -- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

because they've seen the damage prohibition causes to America and the world.

See http://www.leap.cc/

I'm a Scientist. Not a politician, not a cop.

But as a Scientist with a strong interest in Cancer research, I feel even more strongly about the need to ensure that no Cancer patient is denied it, because I'm so impressed with its benefits for Cancer patients.

I urge everyone reading this to PLEASE call and email the Attorney General, the press, Congress and the President today.

Medical Marijuana helps with Alzheimer's, Autism, Cancer, seizures, PTSD and chronic pain, and has helped many Americans, including many veterans, stop using Alcohol, and hard drugs, both legal and illegal ones.

Every minute an American dies of Cancer.

Every 19 minutes an American dies of a prescription drug overdose.

Many vets become addicted to prescription opiates and die from them.

NOBODY has ever died from smoking too much pot.

Cancer patients are seeing remarkable results using high dose Medical Marijuana oil, in many cases achieving complete remission, even for stage 4 cancers -- there are many excellent articles on the web, and videos on youtube with patient's personal stories about their experiences with it -- and every Cancer patient that uses Marijuana to ease their suffering benefits greatly from doing so.

It is immoral to leave Marijuana illegal, for anyone, for even a second longer.

For Cancer patients, its a matter of life and death.

Cancer patients can't wait.

Medical Marijuana has an unmatched safety profile, and for people who suffer from so many diseases, of so many kinds, its a medical miracle -- and the scientific evidence behind it is rock solid.

For Cancer patients, Medical Marijuana encourages apoptosis and autophagy of Cancer cells, while leaving normal cells untouched, is anti-angigogenic, anti-proliferative, and is anti-angiogenic.

Its also synergistic with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, making both more effective.
For many Cancer patients its meant the difference between life and death.

For everyone else, its a far safer alternative to Alcohol, and infinitely safer than Cigarettes.

Either take them off the market too, or legalize Marijuana right now.

2016 is too far away, Its too long to wait. Every year we lose more Americans to Cancer than died in WWII.
Between now and the 2016 elections, roughly 1 MILLION Americans will die of Cancer.

And Its a horrible way to die.

Legalize Cannabis Freedom

Jesus of Nazareth calls out the Hypocrite Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23)

Hypocrites All !!!
Blind Guides !!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD--lHALcm0

Antioxidant and Neuroprotectant rich Cannabis is listed as a schedule 1 drug while the poison alcohol and tobacco are not even scheduled.

Cannabis with cannabinoids that have been patented as antioxidants and neuroprotectants is illegal even in America.

Alcohol destroys and creates holes in the brain And causes cancer = Legal

These hypocrites erode their brains with alcohol but then still go out and treat the cannabis community badly with fines and jail time.

Land of the Free but they don't have the Freedom to grow cannabis which is far safer and better than alcohol.

Home of the Brave but they are afraid of Cannabis Plants.

Thank you Ruben! You NAILED

Thank you Ruben! You NAILED IT!!!!

That's exactly what those parasites we call legislators are - Scribes and Pharisees!!! Hypocrites!

Marijuana

This is encouraging and makes so much sense, I hope I live long enough to see Marijuana treated fairly. 

Alabama

You got that right ! . The only thing Alabama has going for it , is college football . The $$$ factor . If you ask for directions into Alabama from a Georgia town , they will tell you to take the first dirt road @ the State line . Also , I-20 west or I-85 > 65 > to I-10 . Gas it .

You left out Georgia..

You left out Georgia.. another State with only the 'CBD model', for ten deseaases, five of which the people will almost assuredly die from anyway.

While it is great they get relief, on the way to the grave yard, Georgia and other States need to at least go with the 'low THC-High CBD model', across the board. It is Draconian that one must be in line to die, to get relief.

Absurd.

Not only weed, but all

Not only weed, but all "street drugs" are less harmful than most prescription drugs... In this country, those aged 60 and above are taking an average of 6 different drugs per day. And for the most part those people readily scoff those of us who use "street drugs". I like reminding them that they are NO DIFFERENT than us "potheads" (or whatever name they want to call me). They are hooked on all sorts of drugs. Let them quit taking their high blood pressure drugs, or any of the other drugs they're on, and watch them have fits... Now for the bad part - Iatrogenics (which means things attributable to the medical industry) is now the THIRD LEADING cause of death in this nation! Doctors are killing you at a rate FAR BEYOND what those "evil street drugs" are! And what is sad is that is BY DESIGN. The pharmaceutical industry WANTS it's snake venom and monkey pus to have DRAMATIC possible side effects so they can make MORE money selling the "remedy" for the next problem (which was caused by the "remedy" for the first problem. Pick up a Physician's Desk Reference and randomly open it and look at the possible side effects of whatever drug is on that page. I PROMISE it will have some which are horrific - like kidney damage, liver damage, or DEATH... Yet as long as a LICENSED DRUG DEALER prescribed slow death in a bottle for you - it's perfectly fine (from a legal standpoint). In Scripture the Creator told us He gave us "everything we need". I'm pretty sure He didn't create Oxycotin, but He DID give us poppies. He didn't create Xanax, but He DID create marijuana. And He even TOLD us NOT to be messing with the snake venom and monkey pus offered by big pharma! Look at Gal 5:20 and you will see the word witchcraft - and in verse 21 we are told that those who "do such things" will not "inherit the kingdom of God". Thought you knew what "witchcraft" meant? Guess again - that word was translated (by the translators of the King James Version) from the Greek word PHARMAKIA!!!! Look it up in Strong's Concordance if you don't believe me! I've had it up to my eyeballs with this "war on drugs", which is in reality a war on WE THE PEOPLE. And the biggest reason I've had it up to my eyeballs with it is because WE create government, NOT the other way around! WE pay the salaries of all these congressmen and lawmakers. THEY WORK FOR US - THEY ARE OUR EMPLOYEES! Yet WE allow our EMPLOYEES to run roughshod over us! Bullshit! This whole stinking mess is out of control! The State makes a "law" then harasses us over it. How do you get a "fair trial" when THEY make a law, then if you "violate" that law THEY become a PARTY of the lawsuit, AND get to JUDGE the lawsuit! THEY have a vested interest in you LOSING - then THEY can collect money from you in FINES, and the judge has a vested interest in your conviction because part of the fine levied against you goes to the judge's RETIREMENT FUND!!! And if you hire an attorney (or use the public pretender) you screw yourself good because both he and the prosecutor are BAR (British Accredited Registry) members - and both are trained in the same legal ideology. In other words you are sitting in a middle of a "closed shop union" with BOTH sides giving their first duty to the court! That is why I represent myself! And I start hitting them IMMEDIATELY with their OWN violations of law! And you can bet your ass there will be PLENTY OF THEM! Didn't that cop start asking you questions LONG BEFORE he Marandized you? I promise you he did. In every case I've been involved in I've found that both the judge and prosecutor VIOLATED their oaths of office at some point in the proceeding! But do you think your attorney will have the balls to say "Bailiff arrest that man! He just committed the crime of violating his oath of office!" and point to the judge??? I have done that. The judge didn't get arrested, but you don't think it turned things around in court for me??? You bet it did. WAKE UP PEOPLE! Quit allowing these ticks and leeches to feed off of you!

Please stop this crazy thing!

Hurray for Dr. Gupta! He is teeling the truth about the genuine lies being fed to all of us! Weed protects the brain from tramatic blunt force trauma after the fact! Thats fucking HUGE! It saved my life after getting hit from behind with a deadly weapon by a rogue state police for absolutely 0 provocation! I still have seizures if I don't have weed! But,,the case was swept under the rug and I have been pulled over 3 times this semester alone! again for 0 reasons! but they did take my phone when I had filmed one of them acusing me of pointing a gun at him when it was only a 1/4 inch phone?  That dog should not hunt! But i am in KY, The British Bible Belt!

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