Where Weed Is Still Illegal in the United States, and Why
What are IN, SD, NE, KS, ID, and WV waiting for?
Tuesday’s election results had voters in eight of nine states with cannabis legislation on the ballot saying yes to new recreational-use or medical marijuana laws. Voters in California, Massachusetts, Maine, and Nevada approved legal recreational markets, where cannabis will be on sale with regulations similar to alcohol. Arkansas’s Issue 7 brings legal medical marijuana to the Bible Belt for the first time. And Florida’s Amendment 2 makes the Sunshine State the first in the south to enact a comprehensive medical marijuana program. Saying that 2016 is the year “weed won at the polls” is to revel in understatement.
But what are the states where pot is still illegal AF––Indiana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Idaho, and West Virginia––waiting for?
According to an October 2016 Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans favor some form of cannabis legalization––the highest that percentage of acceptance has ever been. For perspective, only 12 percent of respondents supported legal weed when Gallup first polled on the topic in 1969. A Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this year shows 88 percent of voters supporting medical marijuana laws. Meanwhile, pot is seemingly everywhere in popular culture, from television shows about delivery services, to advertisements that air during presidential debates.
Pot’s lingering illicit status quo isn't due to lack of representation in various legislatures. Cannabis policy-reform advocate and journalist Tom Angell recently wrote that the election results have created an increasingly more 420-friendly Congress.
“. . .there are now 68 more members of the House and eight members of the Senate who represent places where marijuana is legal for adults over 21. And with Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota joining the list of states with comprehensive medical cannabis programs, there are 33 more House members and six senators representing patients who can use the drug legally.”
Despite a report that showed legalization can potentially generate an additional $26 million in tax revenue for West Virginia, numerous bills have failed in the Mountain State.
In South Dakota, a limited medical marijuana initiative that would have allowed patients to treat qualifying conditions with CBD oils containing less than 3 percent, failed to make the 2016 ballot. The language of the bill had doctors “prescribing” medical marijuana––a practice that is still banned federally––rather than recommending it.
According to a state-media-conducted poll, 73 percent of Indiana voters support a comprehensive medical marijuana bill. No such legislation made it onto the 2016 ballot. Nebraska voters did not put forth any bid for marijuana legalization this year; they did say yes to reinstating capital punishment. Kansas’s July 2016-effective HB 2462 reduced penalties for marijuana possession––progress for the normalization movement––but pot is still illegal for medical and recreational use in the state. And a mother in Idaho, where no legal weed laws are on the books, recently had her children taken from her after giving her daughter, who suffers from seizures, a marijuana-infused smoothie.
But the Green Revolution has momentum on its side.
Kevin Sabet of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana told Washington Post, “We were outspent greatly in both California and Massachusetts, so this loss is disappointing, but not wholly unexpected.” And in a pre-election interview with HBO talk show host Bill Maher, President Obama said the passing of so many state marijuana normalization laws makes weed's current Schedule I classification “untenable.”
Indeed, with the election behind us, and legal marijuana rules soon-to-be enacted in a majority of the country, America's reefer madness is only now truly beginning. And the madness is in hanging on to prohibition.