While marijuana laws are continuing to progress in the United States, it’s important to recognize the politicians who made legalization possible. Even before marijuana became legal in major states, a number of politicians, including governors and senators, publicly showed their support in favor of legalizing marijuana. Although their efforts may be slow, they’ve helped the United States take important steps in destigmatizing and legalizing marijuana.
By 2014, out of the 50 governors and 100 senators in the United States, only one had announced his support of full marijuana legalization, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). That same year, his state introduced a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana, which Merkley said, “But I feel on balance that we spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system in the wrong places and I lean in favor of this ballot measure,” making him the first senator in his state to support legalizing the drug. At the same time, Alaska had introduced a similar measure, but neither the state’s governor nor senators expressed their support. Colorado and Washington had already legalized marijuana at this point as well, but even the senators in those states were reluctant to announce their public support of marijuana, although they do respect the decision made by their state's’ voters.