Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) came out in favor of medical marijuana Thursday in a Las Vegas Sun interview, becoming one of the highest elected officials in the U.S. government to give his support.
"If you’d asked me this question a dozen years ago, it would have been easy to answer -- I would have said no, because [marijuana] leads to other stuff," Reid was quoted as saying. "But I can’t say that anymore."
"I think we need to take a real close look at this,” he added. “I think that there’s some medical reasons for marijuana."
Although it remains illegal under federal law, polls show that most Americans support medical marijuana. And Attorney General Eric Holder announced in August that the Department of Justice would not interfere, at least at first, as states that have legalized weed for adults create their regulatory regimes -- a dramatic policy shift from federal authorities' targeting of medical marijuana dispensaries that were legal under state law.
Reid's home state of Nevada is trying to implement a medical marijuana law signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval (R), but officials recently announced they would miss an April 1 deadline to accept applications from growers and sellers.
Reid, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he had never tried marijuana. As for the laws legalizing recreational pot in Colorado and Washington, he said, "I don’t know about that."
Medical research on marijuana is extremely difficult to conduct because it remains a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act -- meaning, among things, that the government judges it to have no currently accepted medical use. However, a long line of medical professionals and patients believe that it is valuable in combating nausea and loss of appetite related to chemotherapy and AIDS treatments, in reducing pain from multiple sclerosis and in treating an array of other maladies.