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Elizabeth Warren “Open To” Legalizing Marijuana

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is generally known for taking bold progressive stands, has disappointed many advocates by opposing the legalization of marijuana. But her stance on ending prohibition now seems to be evolving.

“I’m open to it,” she said, when asked about a legalization initiative that may appear on her home state of Massachusetts’s ballot next year.

As a candidate for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 2011, Warren simply responded, “No,” when asked whether she favored legalization. On another occasion, she even went out of her way to criticize a Republican opponent who supports legalization (along with gun rights), saying, “He wants us armed and stoned.”

But on Wednesday, Warren told the Boston Globe that “we’ve learned more. A couple of states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Frankly, I think we ought to be learning what we can from those states.”

While the senator has opposed full legalization in the past, she has cited the U.S.’s high number of marijuana arrests to criticize the fact that financial crimes are not prosecuted as much as she would like. “A kid gets caught with a few ounces of pot and goes to jail, but a big bank launders drug money and no one gets arrested,” she said at the liberal Netroots Nation conference last year. “The game is rigged!”

And she has been open to some reforms, including the legalization medical cannabis.

“If there’s something a physician can prescribe that can help someone who’s suffering, I’m in favor of that,” Warren said in 2012. Medical marijuana “should be like any other prescription drug… My father was sick [from cancer]and there was some conversation about whether or not marijuana would have helped.”

Warren is a co-sponsor of pending Senate legislation that would allow state-legal marijuana businesses to have greater access to banking services. And she has teamed up with other senators to push the federal government to remove roadblocks to research on cannabis’s medical benefits.

In Wednesday’s interview, Warren criticized the way scientific inquiry on marijuana has been stymied and stigmatized. “It’s just kind of a crazy thing, this country, for so long has done this like, ‘Marijuana, you know, no!’ We can’t even do scientific research around it. And so I’ve been pushing to say we ought to explore it and see what the consequences of marijuana use are.”

As November 2016 approaches and polling indicates whether a majority of voters in Massachusetts are poised to legalize marijuana, Warren may feel emboldened to make a full endorsement. For now, however, she’s keeping her options open.

“I just want to make it clear, overall on the ballot question, I’m open to it,” she said.

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