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Video: Bill Clinton on why states should be able to opt for medical marijuana

Bill Clinton in Denver. Additional photos and a video below.
Bill Clinton in Denver. Additional photos and a video below.

The Clinton Global Initiative, which took place in Denver last week, received a showy national platform yesterday via an extended Meet the Press segment featuring former President Bill Clinton. Among the questions posed by host/interviewer David Gregory was one about medical marijuana, and Clinton's expressed support for state's rights strikes one cannabis advocate as another step in the political mainstreaming of pot.

Although Hillary Clinton was the marquee name at the latest Clinton Global Initiative owing to the likelihood that she'll run for president again in 2016....

Video: Bill Clinton on why states should be able to opt for medical marijuana
Photo by Jake Shane

...her husband loomed large over the proceedings as well:

Video: Bill Clinton on why states should be able to opt for medical marijuana
Photo by Jake Shane

Bill's on-stage chat with Gregory touched on a wide variety of subjects, including Hillary's claim that the Clintons came out of the White House "dead broke," plus the state of the economy, Syria and much more. But the quiz session concluded with this Gregory inquiry, prompted by the initiative's presence in Colorado:

Gregory: We are in Denver; I've got to ask this last question. Back in the '60s, there was that saying, "Give peace a chance." I'm wondering if you think now it's time to give pot a chance. Would it actually help government raise revenue and deal with some of the things you're dealing with here at CGI?

Clinton began with a joke: "Rocky mountain high?" he asked. But then he got serious:

Look, I think there's a lot of evidence to argue for the medical marijuana thing. I think there are a lot of unresolved questions. But I think we should leave it to the states. This really is a time when there should be laboratories of democracy because nobody really knows where this is going. Are there adequate quality controls? There's pot and there's pot; what's in it? What's going to happen? There are all these questions. And I think that, unlike where it is now, if the state wants to try it, they can. And then they'll be able to see what happens.
Video: Bill Clinton on why states should be able to opt for medical marijuana
Photo by Jake Shane

This position isn't far from one Hillary espoused earlier this month. As noted by the National Journal, she called for more studies into the medical effects of cannabis, saying, "I think we need to be very clear about the benefits of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. I don't think we've done enough research yet."

From a recreational standpoint, she also left her options open even as she alluded to the passage of legalization measures in Colorado and Washington circa 2012 in phrases that prefigured ones Bill deployed in Denver. "States are the laboratory of democracy," she said, adding, "I want to wait and see what the evidence is."

Tom Angell in a 2012 photo.
Tom Angell in a 2012 photo.

"These remarks, combined with what Hillary Clinton said a few weeks ago about how 'states are the laboratory of democracy,' increase the chances that respecting state marijuana marijuana laws will be the default position for 2016 presidential candidates, at least on the Democratic side," Angell notes in an e-mail to Westword. "And with Republican Rand Paul, who also supports scaling back the war on marijuana, likely to run, this seems like it'll be among the issues that the candidates get asked about regularly in debates and by voters on the campaign trail. All of this increases our momentum and furthers the perception that marijuana reform is officially a mainstream issue that political candidates need to take seriously."

Here's the Meet the Press segment:

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Politics archive circa June 25: "Photos: Hillary and Bill Clinton hosting Clinton Global Initiative events in Denver."


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