As the country heads into the final three months of what may seem like an endless political campaign, voters in five states will get to have their say at the ballot box on whether marijuana for recreational use should be legal. The biggest noise comes from California, where a legalization measure was defeated in 2010 and is back on the ballot this year.
There are four states where recreational use of marijuana is currently legal under state law: Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Marijuana possession or use remains illegal under federal law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but the U.S. Department of Justice has adopted a “nod, nod, wink, wink” attitude regarding enforcement of the federal prohibition on marijuana use that has been in force in the United States for the past 78 years.
The five states that could legalize marijuana for recreational use are Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
Medical marijuana is legal in 25 states (including the four where recreational use is legal and all five where voters are considering full legalization this fall) and the District of Columbia and three states will be voting to allow medical marijuana: Arkansas, Florida and Missouri. Residents of Montana will also be voting on a medical marijuana measure to replace the one that the state legislature virtually gutted in its last session. Simply put, medical marijuana is technically legal in Montana, but nearly impossible to get.
Marijuana remains illegal in all forms in 25 states. Even if the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) were to remove marijuana from its Schedule I listing as a dangerous drug, some of these states are not likely to consider making marijuana legal even for medical use.
We have identified 11 states that are the least likely to legalize marijuana and provided detail on how these states currently address marijuana possession and use. The 11 are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.
Even if the DEA reschedules marijuana as a Schedule II drug that will not change its status as an illegal drug under federal law. Only Congress can do that. Want to start an office pool on when that might happen?