'Yes,' marijuana should be legal, says retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

In an interview with National Public Radio's Scott Simon on Thursday, retired Justice John Paul Stevens "made some news" when he declared that the federal government should legalize marijuana.

"A number of states are legalizing marijuana," Simon said, "should federal law?"

"Yes," Stevens replied.

"We may have just made some news," Simon said.

"I really think that that's another instance of public opinion," Stevens continued, that has "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."

According to an April 2014 poll, three out of four Americans believe marijuana will soon be legal throughout the United States. “The public appears ready for a truce in the long-running war on drugs,” said Pew in a summary of its findings, which appear on its website.

Retired Justice Stevens -- who was considered part of the Supreme Court's liberal wing, but who considers himself to be conservative -- was originally appointed by Republican President Gerald Ford on December 19, 1975. His comments are surprising, considering that a little more than a decade later, President Reagan withdrew the nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg after he acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana.

His appearance was part of a promotional tour for his new book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution.

[Image of John Paul Stevens via Wikimedia Commons]