Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens says pot should be legal
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens recently came out in support of legalizing marijuana.
In an interview with NPR, he was asked if the federal government should legalize marijuana.
“Yes,” Stevens replied. “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.”
Recent surveys peg support for legalization around 58%, with even more support for medical marijuana.
Stevens was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Ford in 1975 and considers himself a conservative. He retired in 2010.
This revealing of support is despite the fact that during 2005 Stevens was part of a majority ruling which held that under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution, the United States Congress may criminalize the production and use of home-grown cannabis even where states approve its use for medicinal purposes.
In 2006, Stevens decided in favor of allowing religious use of a Schedule 1 substance in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. He was also part of the majority which held that the government’s central argument that the uniform application of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) does not allow for exceptions for the substance in this case, as Native Americans are given exceptions to use peyote, another Schedule I substance.
Cannabis is currently classified as a Schedule I substance.
Back in 1990 though, Stevens was part of a ruling which held that the state could deny unemployment benefits to a person fired for violating a state prohibition on the use of peyote, even though the use of the drug was part of a religious ritual.
In what was likely the largest cannabis related case for Stevens though, was United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Cooperative in 2001.
The opinion was basically unanimous in denying medical use of marijuana due to the controlled substances act. Stevens was in concurrence with the ruling. While this did not overturn state laws, it left the door open for federal prosecutors to harass patients and caregivers.
While other factors have surely been at work, Stevens’ brief judicial history with cannabis and the Supreme Court has not been kind to marijuana consumers.
By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at TXCann@gmail.com
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