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14 States That May Never Legalize Marijuana

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These 14 states may never legalize marijuana

Yet, in spite of this rapid growth, some states look unlikely to participate. Of the 25 remaining states that don't have a medical marijuana law on their books, 14 may never wind up legalizing marijuana. These states are:

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Indiana
  4. Iowa
  5. Kentucky
  6. Kansas
  7. Louisiana
  8. North Carolina
  9. South Carolina
  10. Tennessee
  11. Texas
  12. Virginia
  13. West Virginia
  14. Wisconsin

Why these states, you ask? Two reasons.

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Politics could keep these states pot-free

The first reason is political. Generally speaking, states that lean toward the Democratic Party tend to be more likely to approve medical marijuana laws. The Democratic Party platform is usually more progressive, leading to more of a willingness of lawmakers in blue states to put forth medical and recreational cannabis ballot measures.

Conversely, the Republican Party tends to take a more conservative approach to the legalization of marijuana, meaning they're more likely to side with the federal government's stance of the drug being illegal. This isn't to say that red states don't legalize marijuana at all; but there tends to be a pretty clear dichotomy between legal states (which are mostly blue) and non-legal states (which are mostly red).

Of the 14 states listed above, Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, and Tennessee all leaned strongly Republican in 2015 per Gallup. Also, Texas, Indiana, and West Virginia leaned modestly toward the Republican Party last year. The remaining seven states are considered competitive, with no clear preference for either party. States that lean toward the Republican Party, or have high-ranking leaders who are part of the Republican Party, may stymie attempts to legalize cannabis.

I&R laws could prevent progress

However, what could arguably be a bigger reason why the aforementioned states may never legalize marijuana is the lack of an initiative and referendum (I&R) process in all 14 states.

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The I&R process refers to the method of allowing residents within a state to vote on a piece of legislation to approve it or reject it. An initiative allows citizens within a state to propose or initiate a statute or constitutional amendment, whereas a referendum allows citizens to refer a statute passed by a state's legislature to the ballot so voters can enact or repeal the measure. Within the U.S., 26 states allow for the I&R process, while the remaining 24 states lack the right to I&R. Of the 24 states that lack the I&R right, 10 have approved medical marijuana, leaving the 14 states you see above to make up the remainder.

What this essentially means is that unless congressional lawmakers within these 14 states introduce medical and/or recreational cannabis legislation, there's little chance of legalizing marijuana in these states. Remember, half of these states have some degree of Republican bias, and the remainder are competitive, meaning getting a marijuana bill passed in the legislature could prove to be incredibly difficult. If residents in these states gather strong enough support for medical and/or recreational cannabis legalization lawmakers, it's possible lawmakers could have little choice but to pass legislation to keep their constituents happy -- but this is no guarantee.

As a final reminder, don't forget that the federal government once again passed on its chance to reschedule marijuana in August. Following two petitions, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency decided to keep cannabis as a schedule 1 drug, meaning it's still illegal and has no perceived medical benefits. As long the federal government maintains its schedule 1 stance on marijuana, these states may side with the view of the federal government, even with the federal government's hands-off approach to state-level cannabis regulation.

Though marijuana's growth has been impressive over the past two decades, investors may want to temper their intermediate-term expectations with these 14 states unlikely to legalize anytime soon, if ever.

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Sean Williams has no material interest in any companies mentioned in this article. You can follow him on CAPS under the screen nameTMFUltraLong, and check him out on Twitter, where he goes by the handle@TMFUltraLong.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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