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Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens: Feds Should Legalize Marijuana

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director April 24, 2014

    In an interview with NPR released today, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens came out in support for marijuana legalization.

    When asked if he believed the federal government should legalize marijuana, the 94 year old former Justice replied:

    “Yes, I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that's] changed. And recognize that the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction. Alcohol, the prohibition against selling and dispensing alcoholic beverages has I think been generally, there’s a general consensus that it was not worth the cost. And I think really in time that will be the general consensus with respect to this particular drug.”

    You can listen to the full interview from National Public Radio here.

    Stevens joins the majority of Americans who are ready to see an end to our war on marijuana consumers and for the country to move towards a system of legalization and regulation.

    34 Responses to “Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens: Feds Should Legalize Marijuana”

    1. BOxer4ever says:

      take it off schedule 1 list, I’m having issues as a 20 year-old getting a part-time job for this summer. I live in Washington state and have a medical marijuana license, I go to college full-time and I’m still afraid i will get refused.

    2. Evening Bud says:

      Even one of the Supremes has now belatedly acknowledged the ridiculousness of this country’s drug laws.

      Even better news is the Obama admin’s apparent attempt to give some inmates clemency for past sentencing transgressions. This is GREAT news, certainly for those who may get early releases. I think it’s a further sign that this admin is recognizing the foolishness and unfairness of past sentencing practices.

      We were assured by some on this forum, that Obama would drop the hammer on Colo and Wash St for their recent legalization. So far, he’s been taking baby steps in furthering our cause. This all could change in a heartbeat, I’d be the first to concede; but so far he hasn’t been hindering us too badly.

    3. YearofAction says:

      Justice Stevens, wouldn’t you rather legalize this definition:

      The term “marijuana” means all parts of the smoke produced by the combustion of the plant Cannabis sativa L.

      The current definition is terrible. Can you imagine the problems caused by legalizing this definition:

      The term “marihuana” means all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant, fiber
      produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant, any other compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, or cake, or the sterilized seed of such plant which is incapable of germination.

      Why would you want such a convoluted definition to be rescheduled? How can you contemplate legalizing such an unnecessary and improper definition?

      Justice Stevens, please insist on first redefining marijuana to a form that actually shows respect for our Constitution.

    4. Laury says:

      A Great-Grandpa BUSTED by NAZI FEDS for legally growing medical marijuana in Washington State? Please Help!!! Have you seen this news article? I’m blown away. Larry Harvey, one of the “Kettle Falls Five” may lose everything, including his freedom. The feds are talking about life in prison for trying to alleviate his pain!! Any help you can muster would be appreciated.
      Thank you.

    5. Julian says:

      Spoken from a man who grew up during alcohol prohibition. This guy is so old he was 17 when the Marijuana Stamp Act passed through Congress! C’mon, just legalize some marijuana for the old man before he smokes his last holy incense in the sky…
      Sure do wish judges didnt have to retire to state their real opinion. Wait for it… … C’mon November… C’mon %50 of the U.S. Population…

    6. Weed The People says:

      Where was he 40 years ago?
      Now he comes forward. big deal.
      nothing here folks.

    7. Galileo Galilei says:

      “…the distinction between marijuana and alcoholic beverages is really not much of a distinction.”

      I like both alcohol and marijuana, but there is a big distinction in my opinion. Alcohol is far more dangerous and causes all kinds of bizarre behaviors in people who are high on it.

    8. someone says:

      @BOxer4ever
      Get a fring to pee for you and keep it warm. Before you go to give the samele tape it to your leg.

    9. d3vark says:

      was just thinking that ^

    10. phrtao says:

      A quick note on the responsibilities and restrictions of being a judge. They cannot make the law or suggest what is and is not illegal they can only enforce the law and decide on punishment (although this function has been restricted by things such as mandatory minimums). It is only once they retire that they are able to comment on what the law should be – and their experience should be valued in making these decisions.

    11. Anonymous says:

      Irony. Stevens authored the opinion in Raich v. Gonzales, holding that the Feds had power to regulate purely intrastate commerce under the Commerce Clause, citing Wickard v. Filburn. What a crock!

    12. Truth be told says:

      This right here’s what I been whatens for. Finally havens a x sopremen judge say that be nothing wrong with Mary Jane. Truth be told truth be folds brother haha but I digress or what haves you. Just so happiness that we be on the presipusnes of the ends of prohibernation. That’s Normal for all yours hard work

    13. David Martinez says:

      How many states have medical marijuana

      [Editor's note: 22 states and District of Columbia]

    14. Growyourown says:

      @Truth be told…You’re either a moron or law enforcement… I’m betting on both! Cannabis doesn’t make us act and write stupid, we leave that to alcohol.

    15. Sonny says:

      Everyone in Florida make sure you registered and are all ready to vote for medical marijuana in November. Thank you

    16. Evening Bud says:

      @Weed the People,

      Sorry brother, but I must disagree. I think it’s still a good thing for him to come out now and support legalization, however belatedly. It’s a Supreme Court Justice advocating legalization!

      We all wish that Clinton and Obama and Reagan and Kennedy and Eisenhower had advocated for legalization when they were President–but they didn’t/haven’t. We all wish every Senator and Congressperson would’ve advocated for legalization–but they didn’t/haven’t. So, we take our victories as they come. Legalization didn’t happen 50 years ago, didn’t happen yesterday and hasn’t yet for the vast majority of the world. So we take our victories and every bit of good news as they come.

      You can’t be angry because every person hasn’t seen the light as we have, or spoken up for legalization as we have. We have to be happy when they do come around and change their opinions, or openly advocate for legalization.

      These are good times for our cause. I for one intend to enjoy them.

    17. Legalizing marijuana may have long lasting effect on humanity. The hon’ble Justice may have done right but social aspect should be considered

    18. Donna says:

      Um anybody understand “Truth be told” comments? WTF..Lol.

      Donna

    19. Voice of the Resistance says:

      I heard this news story on a local radio station yesterday morning. Then they played a Beatles tune ( Get Back ) freedom is coming, and it made me very happy so I sure turned up the volume. Thanks Justice Stevens, where were you in 1980?

    20. Miles says:

      When someone as important as a Supreme Court Judge comes to the conclusion that marijuana should be legal, it is a huge nail in the prohibitionist coffin.

      Rest in peace Kevin Sabet and Melinda Haag! Oh, you too Chris Christie!

    21. Way to go Justice John Paul Stevens I applaud you for talking about this. This is another step in the right direction. I am glad he compared it to the prohibition of alcohol because that truly demonstrates the results are not worth the cost.

    22. TheOracle says:

      Great, Justice Stevens! Can you convince current members of the Supreme Court who are in favor of legal marijuana to voice their opinions in public, saying something along the lines that personally they would like to see marijuana legalized, although under current federal law their hands are bound and they’re forced to uphold cannabis prohibition before the Court?

      Many of us are stuck in states where even medical cannabis is still illegal. My governor, Tom Corbett, a Republican, is dead set against legalizing marijuana, not even for ultra limited medical purposes for seizures, he says, as long as it’s against federal law. As someone who has been battling cancer, it sure would be help a great deal in dealing with the ongoing treatment and aftermath, and if not feeling like crap because of the treatment it would be a great help to be able to relax legally with cannabis because my particular cancer has left me with bladder and leakage issues that make relaxing with alcoholic beverages hugely impractical.

    23. mark stewart says:

      Change yes, but Laws no! No laws required. No taxes, NO lawyers, no limits, no more B.S. required. Too many advocates are simply looking out for their investments and careers. It’s just a plant, unique as any other. If there’s money to be made, corruption will endure and the war will simply wear new disguises. Do it right or not at all.

      [Editor's note: Dream on...cannabis is not going to go from illegal to legal without being as regulated as other legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco products. No taxes, no limits, no rules, no costs re legal cannabis in America is as stupid and shortsighted as cannabis prohibition itself.

      Cannabis prohibition is fading fast in America and being replaced with distribution and retail models that not only hasten needed law reforms, but also create a sustainable foundation where those who grow/sell cannabis are 'partners' with state and federal governments, and the reforms are long lasting as both parties share mutual interests.

      Cannabis (and alcohol and tobacco products) will always be heavily taxed and public safety rules around their use will be forever evolving, advocating for laissez faire public policies re cannabis will not only not advance reforms, such will likely hinder them.]

    24. TheOracle says:

      Pennsylvania needs to legalize cannabis for medical, recreational, and industrial use, regardless of federal law. The state is bleeding and badly in need of steady, reliable, voluminous streams of revenue. Pennsylvania needs to adopt the slogan: Regulate and Educate. Get the ca$h by regulation to properly fund public education.

      Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett (R) is still dragging his feet on medical marijuana in the Commonwealth. He is up for re-election this fall, and his Democratic challengers are all planning on taxing Marcellus Shale extraction, yet even that is not likely enough to get public education funding to where it was and fix the pension deficit.

      Source link to article about how much fracking gas extraction tax could generate for Pennsylvania:

      http://lancasteronline.com/opinion/editorials/more-for-education-but-where-to-find-it/article_28a8481c-ceda-11e3-9c4f-0017a43b2370.html

      So is Pennsylvania going the Washington state route?

      Here is a link that the Commonwealth is thinking about getting some quick cash by privatizing the state-controlled liquor system, although it doesn’t look like it has enough votes.

      Link to privatization article:
      http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/04/liquor_privatization_moderniza_3.html#incart_river

      Senator Leach and a group of adamant medical marijuana advocates are applying pressure to Corbett, which you can read below, or click on the source link to it at the bottom of this posting.

      Sen. Daylin Leach and families favoring legalizing medical marijuana plan a sit-in unless Corbett meets with them

      Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, joined by families of sick children who support the legalization of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania, are asking for a meeting with Gov. Tom Corbett to discuss his opposition. They threaten a sit-in at his office if he doesn’t set up a meeting with them by Friday. (Jan Murphy/Pennlive)

      Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com By Jan Murphy | jmurphy@pennlive.com
      Email the author | Follow on Twitter
      on April 28, 2014 at 11:21 AM, updated April 28, 2014 at 5:33 PM

      Sen. Daylin Leach and parents of sick children say they have asked repeatedly to meet with Gov. Tom Corbett to have a meaningful discussion about his opposition to legislation that would legalize medical marijuana and provide their children with the medicine they believe is needed to get them well.

      Corbett and officials in his administration have either ignored their requests or given it cursory attention, they said. A spokesman for the Corbett Administration, however, denies that to be the case.

      Nonethless, Leach, D-Montgomery County, and the families are throwing down the gauntlet to Corbett: Agree by Friday to set up a meeting with them or expect a bunch of people occupying the room outside his office.

      At a Monday morning news conference, Leach, joined by several families who support the legislation, announced that at a date and time of their choosing, he along with sick children and their parents will gather for a sit-in in the Governor’s Reception Room with plans on sleeping there, eating there and caring for their sick children there.

      “If the governor chooses to forcibly remove sick children and the parents of those children, that is up to him. But we will not voluntarily leave until a meeting is scheduled,” Leach said.

      Corbett has said he would oppose any legislation to legalize medical marijuana but would reconsider that stance if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve of its use for medicinal purposes.

      Corbett’s press secretary Jay Pagni said the governor has met with Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon County, the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 1182, and a family about this issue already, but said there is no record of Leach requesting a meeting to discuss it.

      “Senator Leach, should he be requesting a meeting, is fully aware of the channels by which to request it,” Pagni said. “Rather than holding a press conference, he should contact the governor’s legislative secretary or the scheduling office.”

      Leach’s office followed up this afternoon with copies of letters from families sent to Corbett requesting a meeting. His staff provided a link to his website where copies of those letters are posted.

      Pagni responded to that, saying the Department of Health officials have met and are meeting with families to continue to share information and work towards a solution. But he reiterated that the governor has never received a request from Leach himself asking for a meeting on this issue.

      Leach and Folmer have said they have the votes in the Senate to pass a medical marijuana bill. Leach said legislative leadership is generally supportive of legislation that would legalize it for medicinal purposes. The biggest impediment to that happening, Leach said, is Corbett.

      Several parents and grandparents who spoke at the Capitol Rotunda news conference implored the governor to have compassion on their children and grandchildren and to listen to 85 percent of Pennsylvanians who, according to polls, support the legalization of medical cannabis.

      Tom Nadzam of Levittown, Bucks County, urges Gov. Tom Corbett to change his mind about opposing the legalization of medical marijuana for Nadzam’s sick granddaughter’s sake at a Capitol Rotunda news conference on Monday.

      Debby Bentch of Mechanicsburg, who shared a heart-wrenching story of watching and holding her granddaughter as she suffered a seizure, said, “I want you to think for a few moments about the emotional impact of having to live with a life-threatening disease and add to that, the emotional impact of knowing there is a medicine that is available that would help these children and other adults around this state” that is illegal to possess in this state.

      Steve Ebersol of Adams County, called Corbett’s lack of compassion for the children like his granddaughter Annie Sharrer who are being denied medicine that will ease their suffering “infuriating.”

      In his remarks, Tom Nadzam of Levittown, Bucks County, whose granddaughter Lorelei Ulrich has four to five seizures a day, spoke directly to Corbett: “From one grandparent to another, don’t let me lose my Lorelei.”

      After the news conference, Nadzam said he may join in on the sit-in if it is held. He said he has received assurances from his boss that he would not be fired if he is arrested for civil disobedience in his efforts to fight for the legalization of medicine for his granddaughter.

      “At this point in my life, take it for what it’s worth, if anything were to happen to her, I would hold Corbett and everyone else responsible for it,” Nadzam said.

      *This post was updated to include the link that Leach has on his website to letters from families sent to the Corbett administration requesting a meeting. It subsequently was updated to include Pagni’s response to that.

      Source link to article:
      http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2014/04/legalization_of_medical_mariju.html#incart_m-rpt-1

    25. Julian says:

      @Mark Stewart,
      Daaaaaaaaaaamn,
      You got Buuuuuuurned, bro!
      I mean, “No laws required?”
      Sounds like you need to click on the top right-hand corner of this web page that says “actions” and learn about some good legislation.
      We are stronger when we can admit when we are wrong.
      @Oracle, Keep up the good work!

    26. BrainDoc says:

      http://www.amazon.com/Dr-J-S-Roberts-Guide/dp/0615996221/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398959853&sr=1-7&keywords=Guide+to+Weed

      Truth about Marijuana and brain health benefits from NORML Louisiana former medical advisor neurologist, Dr JS Roberts I. Daily usage prevents brain diseases!

      God bless

    27. Earl says:

      About the war on marijuana here in Louisiana…few people are aware that one of the methodologies to fight it is a little known practice started by former Louisiana State Representative, Charles Riddle III, who is now the DA in the 12th Judicial District, Avoyelles Parish, Louisisna. If it is found that YOU are a pot smoker, then be assured that your EMPLOYER will be informed along with every other person, or persons that represent an important element in the community that you are in some way dependent on. With POT being a CDS1 drug and that fact reinforced by Law Enforcement DARE officers and other community leaders your reputation,employment and financial status will soon be greatly diminished. This practice is supported by the various 12-step Drug and Alcohol business in the community that stand to have more business with your commitment to a marijuana (Drug) program…CAUTION…this practice is spreading around the country. So be ware all of you pot smokers…

    28. Mark I says:

      War on drugs has brought about disrespect for patients’ rights, law enforcement, the healthcare industry in general, and will continue as long as confiscation without due process is touted as the law of the land.

    29. John Paul Stevens is a wise man. The general consensus will, in due time, be that of support for legalization, as that is the direction public opinion is shifting.

    30. Julian says:

      So I was thinking that our nation’s piss-testing laws aren’t strict enough. I mean, look at all the cheaters?; bringin their non-weed-consuming friend’s warm piss to a lab test? Without supervision?! Hell no! Every employee in America needs to be WATCHED while they URINATE!
      That’s why I propose we cut the bull$#!+ and go to the source; The main leader in revenue for American corporate piss testing; Robert DuPont! :
      Let’s make it mandatory by federal law that all of us go to Robert DuPont’s house (or a federally registered location where we can be video-taped while urinating submissively), so that we can STOP the INSANITY and put an END to these piss-testing CHEATERS!
      It’s only the right thing to do America. C’mon, or do you think America’s violence can be solved with a VOTE?
      After all, wouldnt you want this for YOUR children?

    31. I have been prescribed alprazolam for anxiety and my Dr. Feels I could be prescribed medical marijuana usage if the laws were passed in the state of Iowa. How can I help? The drug alprazolam helps but keeps me tired where marijuana does not and I could list many many other benefits of marijuana usage. Is it discrimination for authorized usage given to 3 persons in my state of Iowa? Why should I suffer when Dr’s are prescribing my illness in other states the usage of medical marijuana. Seriously confused. I also want to say the only paranoia I felt when I used marijuana was being caught!

    32. Evening Bud says:

      @Charlene,

      Sorry to hear about your situation. My state, New Mexico, has Medical Marijuana, but it’s usually pretty tough for people to get prescriptions from their doctors; the doctors usually seem pretty nervous about prescribing it, from what people have told me. I had a cousin who passed away this year from cancer, and he was prescribed MMJ because his illness was very obvious. Other than that, I personally know of no one else who has gotten a prescription (not that I know that many who have tried).

      Anyway, best of look to you; hope you can some day get MMJ meds that can help.

    33. Jeff t says:

        Clearly the only people who can even consider legalizing the use of marihuana  for anything other than medical usage are those of unquestionable selfishness and stupidity.

        I have long said that the only ones who should be allowed to use pot recreationally are those in the entertainment industry as they really don’t do anything important. 
        You see marijuana has one prominent effect.
      Apathy.
        If a singer, actor or director becomes apathetic and decides that they don’t want to go into work or that they only want to do half the job on a given day then their the only real person that suffers. I mean if a certain artist comes out with a bad record or movie they eventually disappear from the show biz landscape….no big loss.
        However, if the people who do the really important jobs in the world become “unmotavated”  You know who I mean. The person that cuts my hair, makes my hamburger or repairs my car is phoning it in then that effects me personally.
      I don’t know about anyone else, but the possibility of the person handling my medication at the pharmacy or hospital or being only marginally interested in doing a proper job scares the crap out of me!
      I mean it’s no coincidence that the popularity of marijuana coincided exactly with the dumbing down of America. To this day we have a large majority of the public who can’t even be bothered to muster up the effort to speak the English language correctly.
        If anything, I would hope that any business owner at all would loath this possibility! Never mind the exponential increase in absenteeism, I would be more concerned with the overall quality of any product or service. 
      I mean honestly. Would you buy a car made in Jamaica or Amsterdam? 
        Legalizing Pot will unquestioningly destroy the already questionable work ethic that exists in today’s society. 
        I don’t pretend to understand the always fluctuating information on the medical effects that Pot has on your body and so won’t even try to enter an argument on that front. I’m far more interested in my personal future as an aging American. Having to depend on the coming drug induced generations  as I grow older and more personally dependent is a frightening possibility. Ending up immobile and dependent in a nursing home or assisted living community and having to depend on someone who’s had prolonged exposure to a brain altering substance.
      This however is a concern that only I seem to have. 
      As with everything else, those with the ample financial resources to not have to worry about these trivial things will no doubt win out in the end, but Its my desperate hope that even one person with foresight reads and comprehends this fact. 
        Personally disappointing is the fact that my fellow Sci Fi nerds are actually going along with with this madness.
        I mean the basis of more science fiction novels than I can count is the widespread pacification of the masses of the lower casts. 

        Oh well, I guess well get what we deserve. 

    34. Evening Bud says:

      @ Jeff,

      It’s a bit tough to follow your thoughts, because you do bounce around a bit. But the gist seems to be that you don’t like the entertainment industry, don’t like pot, care only about yourself, have disdain for your “gullible” sci-fi nerd friends, and have a low opinion of the “masses,” or those you consider to be beneath you and your super intellect.

      I can already tell, just from reading your post, that your mind on all of the above is already set in stone. So I won’t bother trying to educate you.

      Perhaps you should suck on a fat one and chill the hell out.

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