Americans increasingly favor loosening restrictions on marijuana, but the overwhelming feeling on Capitol Hill is to leave the issue to the states, Politico reports. Both Democrats open to the pot experiment and libertarian-leaning Republicans are flying the states' rights banner as Colorado and Washington state implement groundbreaking new marijuana legalization laws. Marijuana remains a touchy social subject, loaded up with decades of baggage, from Woodstock to Nancy Reagan's “Just Say No” campaign.
The willingness of so many members of Congress to stay clear of the fight is a powerful reminder why marijuana activists are having so much success in taking their case directly to voters in weed-friendly states. “If the federal government doesn't have to put its nose in the issue, we shouldn't. I'm happy to have these states do it,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)). “I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope the experiment doesn't create horrible results.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a states' rights advocate who doesn't endorse pot smoking because of its health effects, said the atmosphere on the Hill is changing — slowly. “I think people overall don't like the idea of teenagers and young men and women going to jail for mistakes,” Paul said. “But I don't think people are ready yet to say, 'Oh, it's a great thing and we just need to legalize it.'” Marijuana activists are getting the hint. They're planning pot legalization ballot measures in Alaska and Oregon in 2014, with several more likely to follow in 2016.