01/27/2014 03:04 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2014

Chuck Schumer: States Should Be Allowed To Legalize Marijuana

During a Monday appearance on MSNBC, Sen. Chuck Shumer (D-N.Y.) said states should be allowed to legalize marijuana and act as "laboratories" for drug policy.

Appearing on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown," Schumer was asked by host Chuck Todd what he thinks about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D) plan to allow some hospitals to distribute medical marijuana.

"It's a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol, and obviously alcohol is legal and I'm hardly a prohibitionist, but it does a lot of damage," Schumer said. "The view I have, and I'm a little cautious on this, is let's see how the state experiments work."

He added that lawmakers should view states like Colorado and Washington, who have legalized recreational pot, as "laboratories" to see if legalization could work on a larger scale.

"I'd be a little cautious here at the federal level, and see the laboratories of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision," he said.

Todd then asked the senator if he believes states should be allowed to legalize marijuana without federal intervention.

"Yes," Schumer said. "I think having the states experiment is a good idea."

Tom Angell, chairman of pot policy group Marijuana Majority, praised Schumer's remarks.

"Sen. Schumer is a longtime advocate of harsh, punitive drug policies, but everyone in Washington, D.C. knows that he's an even bigger advocate of playing smart politics and helping his party to win elections," Angell told The Huffington Post. "The polls now clearly show that voters want to move beyond the failure of marijuana criminalization, and savvy politicians like Chuck Schumer have no choice but to follow where the people are leading. This is how federal prohibition ends."

Schumer's comment comes one week after President Barack Obama said he believes marijuana is "no more dangerous" than alcohol, and that the legal weed laws in Colorado and Washington serve an "important" purpose.

“It's important for it to go forward because it's important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished," Obama told the New Yorker's David Remnick.

However, as the White House pressed Wednesday, Obama is still opposed to legalization.

"He's not endorsing any specific move by a state," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters last week. "He's simply making an observation, his position of these matters has not changed."



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