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Top Democrat Says Marijuana Reform ‘Makes Sense’ But Won’t Commit To Making It Happen

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The number two U.S. House Democrat supports making medical marijuana available and says ending criminalization more broadly “probably makes sense,” but acknowledges that party leaders have not yet discussed moving cannabis-related legislation to passage next year should they win control of Congress in November.

“It does have an ameliorating effect on pain and other circumstances that may be useful for patients,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said in an interview published on Thursday, adding that he personally supports his home state of Maryland’s medical cannabis law.

Speaking about growing public support for moves to legalize marijuana outright, Hoyer said that “every time it’s on the ballot, almost invariably it wins.”

“So it’s obvious that the people believe that it ought to be made, if not a favored product to use, nevertheless not an illegal or criminal product to use,” he said in the interview with local Maryland news outlet TheBayNet.com. “I think that probably makes sense.”

“Clearly, states are moving. Almost every time it’s on a referendum, marijuana wins.”

Nonetheless, the top Democrat admitted that he has “not been on the forefront of that effort” to enact marijuana reform.

On that note, during a separate briefing with reporters earlier this week, Hoyer was noncommittal about moving cannabis legislation if his party wins control of the House in the midterm elections.

“We haven’t talked about that,” he said when asked about the issue by journalist Matt Laslo.

In the interview with TheBayNet.com, which was taped last week, Hoyer also voiced some concerns about marijuana use, even as he admitted that ending its criminalization “probably makes sense.”

“For recreational use I’m not so sure that it’s not a gateway drug to using other drugs,” he said.

Either way, the 79-year-old lawmaker seems to accept that fact that marijuana reform is popular in his state and beyond, whether not Congress is prepared to act anytime soon.

“But having said that, it’s obvious the public thinks that we ought to treat it in a much less criminal mode and research it,” he said. “Colorado now has, and other states have, legal sales of marijuana. And frankly, I think probably the majority of people in Maryland probably believe that makes some sense.”

Photo courtesy of David.

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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