Throughout my travels across America, I’ve gotten to experience the best marijuana states. I live in Oregon where pot is cheap, plentiful, and potent. My work covering HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cups takes me to Northern and Southern California, Colorado, and Washington -- in those last two states marijuana is legal for adults and in California and Oregon, it may as well be.
So when work takes me outside the green states to the land of prohibition, my activist friends in places like Texas, Missouri, Georgia, and Florida all proclaim that “this state is going to be the last to legalize weed.” They can’t all be right, but the fact I have activist friends in some of those Southern states gives me more hope for their legalization chances. Plus, as the war on drugs is increasingly recognized as a race issue; established Southern civil rights groups will help push for legalization there. Here are my top seven candidates for the last state to legalize and they’re all outside Dixie:
North Dakota -- Pot smokers and those who support them to tend to be concentrated in cities. Fargo is this state’s largest city at just over 110,000 people. Gathering the signatures you’d need for a legalization initiative would be tough, even though you wouldn’t need many compared to, say, Florida. Especially considering that, according to survey data from 2002-2009, North Dakota had the third-lowest rate of monthly pot smokers, at just 4.3% of the population. Still, it would be nice to legalize there and put some meaning behind the “Peace Garden State” nickname on their license plates.
Iowa -- “At least you get to gather signatures,” says my friend in Iowa. The demographics are similar to North Dakota, though the cities are bigger. But Iowa counts just 4.1% of its population as regular tokers and lacks any direct or indirect initiative process, leaving the task of legalization up to the legislature. When that legislature includes anti-pot demagogues like State Rep. Clel Baudler, a man who traveled to California and lied about his hemorrhoid pain to discredit a medical marijuana bill, it will be a while before anyone’s singing “I Owe A Lot to Iowa Pot.”
Arizona -- If you can judge a state’s likelihood to legalize based on its current pot laws, Arizona may be the last to legalize. Marijuana is a felony, period. Possession of a milligram? Felony. Planting a seed? Felony. Passing a joint? Felony. Owning a bong? Felony. Plus it’s the kind of place that re-elects Sheriff Joe Arpaio to force marijuana felons to wear pink underwear while serving time in 110-degree desert heat in a tent jail. However, the state did just barely pass a limited medical marijuana law by citizen initiative, so not all hope is lost.
Oklahoma -- While not as absolutely prohibitive as Arizona, the Sooner State has some of the nation’s worst laws on marijuana. Any amount of marijuana can get you a year in jail and a second offense is a felony that can get you life in prison. Any sales can get you life and converting marijuana into hash or concentrates -- even something as innocent as a kief screen in your stash box -- is also worth a life sentence. Still, 5.4% of the population smokes weed monthly and they do have the power of citizen initiative and a relatively small number of signatures to gather.
Tie: Idaho/Utah/Wyoming -- I’ll admit I’m probably biased by growing up in Idaho, but these three states will probably hold onto marijuana prohibition the longest, even if the federal government legalizes weed. Utah is home to the world’s greatest concentration of Mormons, a religion known for the shunning of caffeine, and has the lowest rate of monthly pot smoking at 3.7%. Wyoming is the most Republican state in the country, with 63% of voters registered as GOP and the statehouse dominated 78-12 by the Republicans (Utah’s 85-19, Idaho’s 86-19). In Wyoming and Idaho, it is a crime to merely be under the influence of marijuana in public and you can get three-to-six months in jail for it! And even though marijuana’s thoroughly illegal in Idaho, last year the Idaho Senate voted 29-5 in support of a resolution stating that Idaho shall never legalize marijuana for any purpose, including medical.
What do you think? Where do you think your state will place in the legalization race? Maybe we should all place a bet on our state to be the last, and then whichever state actually is the last prohibition state gets to use all the bet money for their legalization campaign. You know we’ll be here continuing to fight until all fifty states are free.