Former United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said he believes marijuana should be legalized by the federal government and that the American people will soon come to the realization that continuing prohibition of the plant is “not worth the cost.”
In an interview with NPR, Stevens, 94, pointed to relatively recent changes in US public opinion in favor of marijuana legalization.
“I really think that that’s another instance of public opinion [that’s] changed,” opined Stevens. “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.”
Stevens, who considers himself a conservative, was appointed by President Gerald Ford, a Republican, in 1975. He served 35 years until his retirement in 2010, and became increasingly known as a member of the high court’s progressive bloc. Before retiring, he penned a scathing, 90-page dissent in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, which affirmed that corporations are persons entitled with ‘free speech’ rights to spend as much as they wish influencing the outcome of US elections.
Stevens is currently promoting his new book, Six Amendments, in which he proposes six major changes to the US Constitution. Among these are the abolition of capital punishment, a limit on corporate campaign contributions and curbs on citizens’ right to bear arms.
Public opinion polls show most Americans now agree with Stevens’ stance on marijuana legalization. Last October, a Gallup poll revealed that for the first time, the majority of Americans (58 percent) favor legalizing the plant.
Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, as well as the controlled production and sale of the drug. Medical cannabis is legal in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Outside the United States, Uruguay has legalized the cultivation, sale and use of the plant, the first and only nation to ever have done so.
Attitudes toward legalization vary within the United States, with most liberal areas supporting ending prohibition and many conservative regions still supporting the war on drugs. But many people still get arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana, even in such progressive bastions as New York City. In fact, New York arrested more people for marijuana possession than any other municipality in the world in 2011, when 50,684 people were apprehended.