Nov 26, 2016 12:05 PM

These Six Conservative States May Never Legalize Marijuana

Legal recreational marijuana is now available in seven states and the District of Columbia. As for medical pot, the number of states allowing its use has already reached the record mark of 26. Today, more Americans are using the drug than ever.

Although November was a turning point for marijuana legalization in the United States, it seems like not everyone is on board. No matter how many times researchers from around the world found numerous health benefits of cannabis, lawmakers talked about a significant flow of tax revenue and reduction of expenditures on enforcing marijuana prohibition, and experts convinced of the social costs toll on society resulting in the ban, there will always be people assuming that cannabis users are all “mad on the reefer.” For that reason, there are a few states that may never see legalization or be the very last, unless it is done on the federal level.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: $1,000

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2012: 30,611

- Arrests per 1,000: 3

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

Although Georgia is a home to many liberal-minded folks, the Peach State remains a pretty conservative place.

Georgia residents are probably open to some form of access to the drug, as we can see in the polls of NORML to WSB-TV. But there is a big difference between people and politicians. Despite the fact that polls are showing support, advocates say that Georgia is ready neither for the recreational nor for medical marijuana use. Last year, the state legalized cannabis oil for people suffering from certain ailments, but it is illegal for marijuana to be grown and sold in Georgia, leaving the residents little choice but to travel across state lines to obtain the drug, which is a direct violation of federal law.

In 2016, Georgia was hoping to get in on the increased popularity of legalization, but that effort was derailed by the state's legislature. The Georgia Marijuana Legalization Amendment was intended for the November ballot and was introduced by Sen. Curt Thompson as Senate Resolution 6. The initiative was meant to allow adults 21 years of age or older to buy marijuana recreationally, the taxes of which would be divided equally between capital outlay projects for transportation infrastructure purposes and educational programs in the state. However, the initiative was not put on the November ballot as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

There are two main reasons why Georgia is not going to be adopting anything that looks like legalization in California and Colorado. First, it is because of the apprehension or personal opposition of lawmakers. Second, it is because the marijuana states have systems in place that allow more direct voter influence over policy decisions. Colorado voters legalized the recreational use of the drug in a 2012 ballot initiative. California's broad medical access stems from a 1996 voter referendum. In their turn, Georgians cannot put any question on the ballot by themselves.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: $300

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2014: 8,565

- Arrests per 1,000: 4.55

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

Nebraska is in the heart of the United States, and any reform there would be tremendously significant. It is currently one of the states with the harshest punishments for marijuana possession and use. Technically, Nebraska is a rural, conservative state, and its residents just are not open to the idea of legalization. It was also one of the states that sued Colorado for its legalization law in 2014, citing that marijuana legalization violates the state's sovereignty and requires Nebraska to spend more money arresting, prosecuting, and jailing an increasing number of people caught crossing the border into the state in order to sell pot there. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit in March 2016. So, as you can see, Nebraska is not a big fan of the marijuana legalization.

However, as politicians across the U.S. debate marijuana laws, a group of pot activists in Nebraska decided to take a different approach and form a political party supporting medical marijuana legalization. They said that forming a political party would move their effort forward faster than the traditional route of a ballot initiative. Hopefully, even if Nebraska is one of the very last states to legalize marijuana, the lawmakers will eventually break under the pressure of the green rush activists.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: N\A

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2012: 9,624

- Arrests per 1,000: 2.5

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

Along with Nebraska, Oklahoma suited Colorado in federal court. It is also a largely rural, conservative state where many residents are still not very happy with the idea of ending marijuana prohibition.

Oklahoma is home to some of the toughest marijuana laws. Possession of any amount of the drug can result in incarceration, and a second offense is an automatic felony. The state's government has also expressed its disapproval of legalization.

In 2015, Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 2154 that authorized clinical trials of CBD for patients 18 years old or younger with severe forms of epilepsy. In 2016, Oklahoma expanded its limited protection for patients who use low-THC, high-CBD cannabis oil for treating certain conditions. The bill allows adults to use low-THC oil and added “spasticity due to multiple sclerosis or due to intractable nausea, paraplegia, vomiting, and appetite stimulation with chronic wasting diseases” to the list of qualifying conditions. However, the law still provides no way for people to gain access to marijuana oil in Oklahoma.

CBD, a non-psychoactive constituent of the marijuana plant, is now slightly more accessible for seriously ill patients in the state than it has been in the past as a result of the recent legalization. And apparently, while legalization supporters have praised the development, the move is unlikely to pave the way to full legalization anytime soon.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: $1,000

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2012: 4,060

- Arrests per 1,000: 2.5

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

Situated between two marijuana-friendly states, Washington and Oregon, Idaho is still firmly against legalization. Whereas Oregon has allowed recreational marijuana use and has had a medical marijuana program for quite some time, Idaho is literally stuck in the past when it comes to cannabis policy. In 2013, the state actually passed a bill that essentially said that Idaho would never legalize marijuana. That is right, Idaho somehow found a way to make cannabis even more illegal.

Someone would think that with reform having so much momentum in the surrounding states that Idaho would look closely at the marijuana legalization and change its own laws. But, sadly, it is not the case. The mood there among many law enforcement and elected officials is that Idaho has to battle the devil's plant to the bitter end.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: $2,500

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2012: 6,095

- Arrests per 1,000: 2.1

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

Kansas is another state dominated by Republicans. There are neither initiative process nor support for legalization. On the other hand, there has been some shift in the residents' view on marijuana in the recent years: while in 2014, only 31 percent of people were in favor of legalization, a 2015 poll showed that already 63 percent of Kansas residents would support the notion. In April 2016 voters in Wichita approved a municipal initiative decriminalizing marijuana, but Kansas attorney general asked the state Supreme Court to overturn it. Even innocent proposals, such as the medical use of CBD to treat patients with seizures, have been banned in the Kansas Senate.

Kansas is another dry state where the prohibition of alcohol still lingers as well.

Kansas elected officials have to realize that the state does not have marijuana problems, it has prohibition problems. Dedicating enormous amounts of funds to fighting a plant that has been proven to be 114 times safer that alcohol is an unaffordable luxury and foolishness.


- Maximum fine for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana: $250

- Marijuana-related arrests in 2012: 23,488

- Arrests per 1,000: 3.6

- Minimum penalty classification: misdemeanor

In Tennessee, where voters have supported Republicans in every presidential election since Clinton, a medical marijuana bill in the legislature has gotten much more attention than in any past years. The Koozer-Kuhn Medical Cannabis Act that would let patients with Crohn's disease and post-traumatic disorder possess a one-month supply of marijuana had much more discussion in the General Assembly than ever before. Although the bill was not passed, a separate bill to establish clinical trials for CBD oil has been successfully approved.

A poll conducted by Vanderbilt University in 2014 showed that only one-third of Tennessee residents supported the cannabis legalization. That was among the lowest numbers in the United States. But although marijuana reform has not been on the state’s ballot on Election Day, Tennessee is making strides in changing its marijuana laws nonetheless. Last month, Memphis set a new ordinance in place to decriminalize cannabis in certain instances, becoming the second city in the state to lower possession penalties. Memphis' ordinance came almost a month after Nashville's Metro Council approved a similar bill allowing a police officer to issue a $50 fine and community service to people caught with a half-ounce or less of the substance.

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