clock menu more-arrow no yes

Meet the first sitting US senator to publicly support marijuana legalization

Senator Jeff Merkely (D-OR) supports the legalization of marijuana.
Senator Jeff Merkely (D-OR) supports the legalization of marijuana.
Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), in an interview with Talking Points Memo last week, became the first sitting US senator to publicly support marijuana legalization.

Merkley told TPM he will likely vote in support of Measure 91, which would fully legalize marijuana possession and sales in Oregon.

"I lean in support of it," he said. "I think folks on both sides of the argument make a good case. And there is concern about a series of new products — and we don't have a real track record from Colorado and Washington. 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."

Some of the "new products" Merkley referred to are marijuana edibles, which are often packaged in a way that could appeal to children. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in June reported a very bad experience with a marijuana-infused candy bar in Colorado, drawing more public attention to the state's weak dosage and packaging regulations for edibles.

Oregon, Alaska, Florida, and Washington, DC, will vote on legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical purposes next week. To learn more, read Vox's in-depth guide to 2014's marijuana ballot measures.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for The Weeds

Get our essential policy newsletter delivered Fridays.