Former Supreme Court Justice Stevens Speaks Out In Support of Cannabis Legalization
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In a recent interview on National Public Radio, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens spoke out in favor of cannabis legalization on the federal level.

Appointed by former President Gerald Ford, Stevens has a reputation as one of the Court’s more “liberal” members, even though he considers himself a conservative.

In the interview Justice Stevens said he believed that the American public has drastically shifted its opinion on marijuana and that, like alcohol before it, prohibition was not worth the cost.

 The remark is not the first time Justice Stevens has taken a stance on drugs. In an interview in 2011, Stevens slammed harsh and mandatory drug sentencing laws. “ The use of mandatory minimum statutes has had a very adverse effect on the overall system, and I think generally, the so-called war on drugs has emphasized more severe punishment than is appropriate throughout the country, ” Stevens said then. “ There are some instances where penalties are so disproportionate that they could well violate the Eighth Amendment.

What makes his stance so interesting however, is Steven’s historical judicial record on drugs in general and marijuana in particular.

Also See: Marijuana Prohibition Mimics Alcohol Prohibition from a Centruy Earlier

In 1990, Steven sided with the majority in Employment Division V. Smith, which said that a state could deny unemployment benefits to a person who violated a state law regulating peyote, which Native Americans use in religious rituals. The decision went further than this, however, and also held that while states have the power to accommodate “illegal acts” under state law (in this case in the pursuit of religious beliefs) they are not required to do so.