Nasdaq rejected an application by MassRoots, a social network for cannabis users, to list shares on its exchange.

MassRoots said in a press release Tuesday that Nasdaq thinks it's helping to sell an illegal substance. Medical marijuana is illegal under federal law but allowed in 23 states.

It plans to formally appeal, and has started a public campaign to get more people to protest the electronic exchange.

"If we were a social network for tobacco users or alcohol consumers, the Nasdaq would likely be moving forward on our application even though alcohol and tobacco cause far more deaths and societal damage than cannabis ever will," said MassRoots CEO Issac Dietrich in a press release following Monday's denial.

MassRoots would have been the first cannabis-focused company to be listed on the exchange.

"Moreover, the Nasdaq has already listed at least 4 biotechnology companies that extract compounds from the cannabis plant for scientific research – actually touching the plant as part of their business model," Dietrich said.

Apple banned the MassRoots app from its store, but reinstated it in US states that have legalized medical cannabis.

MassRoots argued that Nasdaq's decision would make it more difficult for other weed entrepreneurs to raise capital.

We've reached out to Nasdaq for comment.

SEE ALSO: You can now get a medicinal marijuana card in California from an app

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