Six historical figures who have wanted legal marijuana

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A look back at those who have tried to open the marijuana industry

Over the past almost 100 years, a number of high-profile individuals have fought to keep marijuana from being legalized. Most recently, the biggest name has certainly been Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. Attorney General who once said that only “bad people” use marijuana. He certainly isn’t the only one, though, and there have been many before him who, for one reason or another, refused to see the light. However, there have also been some who fought diligently to stop marijuana from being illegal.

In the 1940s, Fiorello LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City. He was around when the Marijuana Tax Act (MTA) was being considered and was vehemently against its passing. He formed a commission to study the benefits of marijuana to counter the federal government’s position that marijuana led to drug addiction, but we all know that his efforts were futile.

Roger O. Egeberg believed that marijuana shouldn’t be a Schedule I substance. He admitted that complete legalization of marijuana was probably not a good idea, but fought to have it rescheduled. 50 years after making his opinion known, Congress is only now beginning to come around.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Stuart McKinney tried to introduce legislation that would reschedule marijuana from being classified as a Schedule I substance to a Schedule II substance. If he had been successful, it would have allowed physicians to prescribe marijuana to their patients, but he never received enough support and the measure died.

Activist Timothy Leary was busy in the 1960s supporting the counter-culture movement. He was also the individual responsible for the Marijuana Tax Act being considered unconstitutional. Leary had been arrested for marijuana possession and his case worked its way through the court system until it reached the Supreme Court. The court agreed with Leary’s position, which was a small win for the marijuana industry. Soon after, Congress created the Controlled Substance Act to replace the MTA.

Former Pennsylvania governor Raymond P. Shafer was tapped by then-President Richard Nixon to oversee a commission on marijuana. The commission recommended that marijuana be decriminalized, but Nixon, as well as Congress, ignored the report.

In 1988, Francis L. Young was working at the Drug Enforcement Agency as its Chief Administrative Law Judge when he had an epiphany. He realized that marijuana did not meet the criteria of being classified as a Schedule I substance. He was overruled by his superiors and the subject was quietly buried.

Today, Congress has finally opened its eyes. The reasons behind the move aren’t necessarily important; however, at least lawmakers are ready to make a change and listen to the collective voice that has been lobbying for legalized marijuana.