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Senior U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner Advocates Marijuana Legalization


November 1995

Judge Richard Posner, the chief judge of the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, has advocated legalizing marijuana as a way to reduce crime (Tony Mauro, "Legalize Marijuana, Prominent Jurist Says," USA Today, September 14, 1995, p. 2A).

"It is nonsense that we should be devoting so many law enforcement resources to marijuana," he said. "I am skeptical that a society that is so tolerant of alcohol and cigarettes should come down so hard on marijuana use and send people to prison for life without parole."

Posner made his statement to the British Times Literary Supplement and reiterated it in an interview with USA Today. Marijuana legalization would take the profit out of drug markets and therefore reduce crime, Posner said.

"Prison terms in America have become appallingly long, especially for conduct that, arguably, should not be criminal at all," Posner said.

Posner is the highest-ranking judge to publicly advocate marijuana legalization. He was appointed during the Reagan administration and was once described by American Lawyer as "the most brilliant judge in the country."