Former president Bill Clinton spoke out in favor of letting states decide whether or not to legalize marijuana, pointing to "a lot of evidence" showing that medical marijuana can help patients with a wide range of symptoms.
In an interview with NBC's David Gregory taped in Denver last week, Clinton -- who famously claimed he "didn't inhale" when asked about his own history with marijuana in 1992 -- was asked whether he believes it's time to "give pot a chance."
"I think there's a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing," Clinton said. "I think there are a lot of unresolved questions, but I think we should leave it to the states. This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy, because nobody really knows where this is going."
The Obama administration has largely agreed with Clinton, allowing laws legalizing the use of recreational marijuana to go into effect in Colorado and Washington and permitting banks to do business with legal pot shops. House Republicans, however, have attempted to derail decriminalization efforts in Washington, D.C., inspiring more debate over whether the government should intervene as more states move toward legalization.
While Clinton stopped short of endorsing legalization at the federal level, he said he supports states' experimentation.
"There’s all these questions, and I think that I like where it is now," he said. "If the state wants to try it, they can. And then they’ll be able to see what happens.”
Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, said Clinton's remarks reflect how legalization has progressed from a once politically untouchable issue to a mainstream cause.
"These comments from a skilled politician who knows how to stake out positions that resonate with the majority of voters show just how far the politics of this issue have shifted in favor of legalization," Angell said in a statement to The Huffington Post. "When Bill Clinton was president his administration tried to punish doctors just for discussing medical marijuana with their patients. Now he not only says that there's a lot of evidence to support medical marijuana, but he thinks states should be able to legalize marijuana outright without the feds standing in the way. Whereas this issue was once seen as a political third rail, there's no question it has now emerged into the mainstream. Polls show that the majority of voters support legalization, and today's politicians have no choice but to catch up or get left behind."
Medical marijuana use is currently legal in 22 states and the District of Columbia. However, cannabis is still classified as a Schedule 1 substance, the most dangerous group of drugs. The Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing that status at the request of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
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