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Meet 6 Prohibitionists Who Turned A New Leaf

One of the best signs of progress for marijuana legalization - or any social movement - is when old villains make amends for the past by getting on the right side of history. The sight of old foes coming together - as when President Barack Obama and President Raúl Castro shook hands - offers hope that the hearts and minds of anyone can change.

As public opinion toward cannabis has evolved worldwide, a lot of former opponents have come out in support of softening or ending cannabis prohibition. Here are six unlikely supporters of marijuana reform:

1. Hillary Clinton

The former secretary of state and 2016 democratic presidential nomination contender is firmly supportive of reforming America's marijuana laws. But she didn't use to feel that way. In 1996, then First Lady Clinton bolstered the "gateway drug theory" in her book "It Takes a Village" (1996). She wrote:

"Some factors that increase the risk of substance abuse in adolescents deserve emphasis. Casual attitudes towards marijuana and minors' access to cigarettes raise the likelihood that teenagers will make a sad progression to more serious drug use & earlier sexual activity."

Some activists and advocates think that Clinton's ideas of reform don't go far enough. But at least she's not suggesting it leads to drug addiction and teen pregnancy.

2. Justin Trudeau

The Canadian prime minister has pledged to legalize recreational marijuana use nationwide. But he wasn't always so keen on cannabis. In May 2010, he told Macleans magazine that he was opposed to decriminalizing, let alone legalizing marijuana:

"It's not your mother's pot," he said in reference to the supposed dangers of today's marijuana. "I lived in Whistler for years and have seen the effects. We need all our brain cells to deal with our problems."

A year earlier, Trudeau had voted in favor of a bill that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana-related offences.

3. Kofi Annan

As Secretary General of the United Nations from 1997-2006, Kofi Annan upheld U.N. drug treaties that codified international cannabis prohibition.

But since retiring, he's taken time to analyze the situation in America's legal states and around the world. Now he sees cannabis and the War on Drugs much differently. On Feb. 23, 2016, Annan called on the world to end the drug war and combat addiction and illegal trafficking through legalization and regulation.

4. Eric Holder

North Charleston / Flickr

While serving President Obama as U.S. Attorney General from 2009-2015, Eric Holder worked within the nerve center of the country's prohibition regime. Indeed, in 2011, Holder orchestrated the Obama administration's largest crackdown on cannabis, according to Leafly. But since leaving office, he has become outspoken about changing the drug laws he once upheld.

In a February 2016 interview with PBS' Frontline, Holder called for cannabis to be rescheduled in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA):

"I certainly think it ought to be rescheduled," Holder said. "You know, we treat marijuana in the same way that we treat heroin now, and that clearly is not appropriate."

He also voiced support for nationwide decriminalization:

"I think that certainly that ought to be a part of the conversation.You know, where do we want to be as a nation? Now, there's certain drugs I just can't see. It's hard for me to imagine ever decriminalizing crack cocaine, drugs like that. But the whole question of should marijuana be decriminalized, I mean, that's a conversation I think that we should engage in."

5. Bill Blair

The former police chief of Toronto was heavily involved in enforcing marijuana laws. Before becoming the top cop in Canada's largest city, Blair was part of the city's organized crime unit - a job that involved buying marijuana undercover. But battling cannabis on the front lines actually changed his outlook on Canada's drug laws:

"Simply dealing with marijuana with a criminal sanction and a criminal sanction alone wasn't achieving what we wanted to do," he told The Toronto Star in January 2016. "It wasn't keeping it out of the hands of kids; it wasn't preventing organized crime from controlling its distribution and sale in our neighbourhoods; it wasn't reducing the violence and victimization that takes place in poor neighbourhoods; it didn't address the disparity of the impact of that law enforcement that takes place in minority communities much more than in majority communities."

Now Blair's heading up Prime Minister Trudeau's task force to legalize marijuana nationwide.

6. Patrick Moen

Prior to December 2013, Patrick Moen worked for 10 years in Portland, Oregon as a DEA agent tasked with fighting methamphetamine and heroin trafficking. But then he decided to jump ship and become a legal counsellor for Privateer Holdings Inc, a private-equity firm that invests in the cannabis industry. That made Moen the first active DEA official to switch sides, leaving the prohibition for the legalization sector.

h/t The Toronto Star, Macleans, LA TImes, Leafly, The Atlantic

banner image: Jose Gil / Shutterstock, Canada.2020 / Flickr


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