Hillary Clinton Just Said the One Thing Marijuana Legalization Supporters Have Been Waiting For

The quote: "I want to wait and see." 

The news: Though Hillary Clinton has not officially announced a presidential bid for 2016, it seems like she's started courting the votes of a significant voting bloc: marijuana legalization supporters.

The topic came up during a CNN town hall event on Tuesday. Although Clinton limited her support to a "wait and see" approach, her comments marked a significant departure from her previous opposition to decriminalization — especially for someone who may be mulling a presidential run.

"At the risk of committing radical candor, I have to say I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes," Clinton told the crowd. "I don't think we've done enough research yet, although I think for people who are in extreme medical conditions and who have anecdotal evidence that it works, there should be availability under appropriate circumstances."

As for recreational marijuana, Clinton displayed a similarly cautious but open approach. "On recreational, you know, states are the laboratories of democracy," Clinton said. "We have at least two states that are experimenting with that right now. I want to wait and see what the evidence is."


This is a big step for Clinton. Back when she made her presidential bid in 2008, Clinton said that she was against decriminalization and just two years ago, she said she doubted how much impact pot legalization would have on the international drug trade. Although Clinton has yet to express outright support for legalization of medical or recreational marijuana, this is the most encouraging comment she has made on the topic thus far.

While her latest comment is not exactly the most ringing endorsement of marijuana, "wait and see" is better than "never."

And most of America agrees. A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that three-quarters of Americans believe that pot legalization is inevitable, while a Gallup poll last year found that a majority of Americans favors legalization for the first time. This rising support is cemented by the fact that the "laboratories of democracy" — the states that have begun the great marijuana experiment — have seen some encouraging results already, from high sales to an actual decline in crime.

Clinton is also not alone in her new found political openness to pot legalization. President Barack Obama has previously stated that he believes marijuana is not more dangerous than alcohol, and Attorney General Eric Holder said in April that the Obama administration is considering removing marijuana from the list of Schedule I substances. If this trend continues, it might not be long before we see a viable presidential candidate openly supportive of legalizing marijuana.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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