Retired Supreme Court Justice John Stevens recently made some news, and turned some heads, when he told NPR reporter Scott Simon that he thought the federal government should take lead from the states and put an end to the prohibition of marijuana. It went something like this:
SIMON: An increasing number of states are legalizing marijuana. Should federal law?
SIMON: You may have just made some news.
STEVENS: 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 have to admit that, when you think of Supreme Court Justices, you pretty much think of old stodgy people who are way too far out of touch with current society that they really shouldn’t be in a position to make decisions that will affect us.
While you don’t typically hear personal opinions from sitting judges, Justice Stevens has been quite vocal on a variety of subjects since his retirement. While he’s the only one to publicly come out in support of marijuana legalization, earlier court opinions inferred it. Even back in the day, when writing for the court majority in a medical marijuana case, he noted that Congress had the authority to change the law to permit the use of medical marijuana. My favorite justice (Sandra Day O’Connor) wrote the dissent saying that the states should be able to set their own rules on these matters. (Read more here: CA Healthline) She had even gone on to say in a 2004 interview that homegrown marijuana is something traditionally regulated by states as it is for personal use and not intended for interstate markets. In that instance, she called it a limited exception as such non-economic use differs from the trafficking federal drug law is meant to thwart. Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed. (Read more here: On The Issues)
Who knew they could be so hip?!