Speaking at a Tucson town hall meeting last week, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told attendees, “Well, maybe we should legalize it.”
The senator’s comment came in response to calls to “Legalize it!” from the crowd, after an audience member asked why the U.S. was considering intervening in Syria’s civil war but not in Mexico’s deadly drug war.
“Let me just say what’s going on in Mexico, in my view, to some degree, is our responsibility… because we’re creating a demand for drugs in this country and when there’s a demand, there’s going to be a supply,” McCain said.
“Legalize it!” some attendees mumbled.
McCain then briefly discussed the economics of drug smuggling and said he was open to legalizing the plant.
“Well, maybe we should legalize it,” McCain replied. “We are certainly moving that way so far as marijuana is concerned, but I will respect the will of the people.”
In November, residents of Colorado and Washington state voted to legalize cannabis. Licensed retail outlets will begin serving adults age 21 and over next year. Advocates of marijuana reform say legitimate businesses will make the black market obsolete, along with the violence that often accompanies it.
“My urging is that this country engage in a conversation about drugs, about the punishment for drugs,” McCain added. “A huge percentage of the people in prison today are [incarcerated for] drug related crimes. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but I am saying that we need to have a national conversation.”