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.
Starting with California in 1996, medicinal marijuana use is now legal in 23 states. Of the states with laws protecting medicinal users, four have legalized recreational pot use as well. Despite evolving opinions among voters and legislators, some states still seem unlikely to pass any kind of meaningful reform in the near future. Based on a review of marijuana laws and penalties for possession, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 11 least likely states to legalize marijuana.
In all of the states least likely to legalize pot, possession is a felony under certain circumstances. Perhaps due to strict penalties, estimated usage rates are below average in these states. While an estimated 12.3% of Americans age 12 years and older smoke marijuana, usage rates in all of the states least likely to legalize pot are below the national rate. In Kansas, for example, one of the least pot friendly states in the country, only 8.2% of residents 12 years and older use marijuana, the smallest share of any state in the country.
According to Mason Tvert, director of communications with the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), legal repercussions are not the only factor explaining the relatively low marijuana usage in these states. “There is little doubt marijuana prohibition laws are deterring many adults from choosing to use marijuana,” Tvert said. However, a range of cultural factors, from historical immigration patterns to how religious a population is, also come into play, he noted.
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. 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.