When Rick Steves isn’t touring Europe or writing and producing travel guides, he’s trying to legalize marijuana. The PBS host and NORML board member visited Washington to speak with members of Congress on Feb. 13.

After a press conference attended by NORML’s Keith Stroup and the Marijuana Policy Project’s Don Murphy, Steves went to briefings with House and Senate reps. The Congressional Cannabis Caucus, a bipartisan organization founded in 2017 by Reps Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), organized the House briefing.

His next stops were Maryland and Delaware, where he called on the state legislatures to regulate cannabis.

“I’m not for pot,” he told Freedom Leaf. “I’m for common sense. I’m anti-legislating morality and anti-incarceration.”

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Steves contributed $50,000 to Maine’s Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in 2016, and helped legalization efforts in his home state of Washington by donating $350,000 in support of Initiative 502 in 2012. He also supported the passage of Measure 91 in Oregon in 2014.

“What I do is a learning process for all states across the country,” he explained. “I’m just showing the experience that we have from Washington State, because it has some credibility now.”

For example, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who was elected to his first term in 2012, didn’t know much about marijuana legalization before he took office. “But now he sees the state arresting 10,000 fewer people a year and he’s able to redirect law enforcement to more important things,” Steves stated. “We have a $1.4 billion annual legal industry that would’ve all gone all to the black market.”

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Steves initially supported I-502 “on a hunch” that legalization would result in fewer arrests of minorities and more credibility for law enforcement. “Now it’s not a hunch,” he observed. “Now we have a track record and it’s very clear.”

If he’d gotten an audience with Jeff Sessions, who believes “good people don’t smoke marijuana,” what might he have said to the Attorney General? “I’d tell him to think about the consequences of the war on marijuana and to think about the excitement of pulling the financial rug out from under gangs and organized crime, and turning that market into a highly taxed and regulated legal market.”

But for Steves, who spends much of his life overseas, it’s mostly about “bringing the European sensibility to the issue, where a joint is about as exciting as a can of beer.”

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About Dave Hodes

A business and lifestyle writer and editor based in the Washington D.C. area, he writes for Freedom Leaf and other cannabis publications, and is a member of the National Press Club.

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