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John Oliver: if an 83-year-old Republican has come around on marijuana, federal law should too

The Last Week Tonight host takes a look at federal and state marijuana laws.

Last Week Tonight host John Oliver had a surprising anecdote for just how far marijuana legalization has come in the US.

“There is now a Cannabis Caucus in DC, and it’s co-chaired by these four narcs,” Oliver said, pointing to a picture of four congressmen.

Last Week Tonight

“And if even an 83-year-old Republican from Alaska,” Oliver said, referring to Rep. Don Young, “has come around on this issue, then it’s probably time for our laws to catch up.” (The others in the picture above are Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).)

Oliver was speaking about a big disparity between state and federal law: Although pot is now legal for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, and legal for medical use in 28 states and DC, it is still illegal under federal law. That discrepancy imposes all sorts of restrictions even within places where marijuana is legal under state law — from making it harder for state-legal pot businesses to work with banks to increasing the tax burden on these pot businesses (whose effective income tax rates can be as high as 90 percent or more due to this).

This continues even as the empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana is not especially dangerous compared to other drugs (including legal ones like alcohol and tobacco), and does carry some medicinal benefits, particularly for chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, and cancer patients. What’s more, Oliver argued, most of the country agrees marijuana should be legalized — with 60 percent of US adults supporting full legalization nationwide, according to Gallup.

“Listen, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be laws that place sensible restrictions on marijuana as there are with other substances,” Oliver said. “But our federal laws desperately need to be brought up to date.”

Watch the full segment above or on Oliver’s YouTube channel.

Watch: How marijuana could help combat the opioid epidemic

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