Respected Federal Judge Calls for Legalizing Marijuana

Posted September 7, 2012 in Criminal Law by

Judge Richard A. Posner of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Photo courtesy University of Chicago Law School.

Richard A. Posner, a widely respected federal judge, called for the elimination of criminal laws against marijuana in a September 6  lecture at Elmhurst College in Illinois.

Judge Posner, a member of the influential United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, is an intellectual giant who is the most-cited judge in America. His call for legalization is significant because Posner is considered a legal conservative.

“I don’t think we should have a fraction of the drug laws that we have. I think it’s really absurd to be criminalizing possession or use or distribution of marijuana,” he said. “I can’t see any difference between that and cigarettes.” The audience gave him a round of applause.

In his introduction of Posner, Judge William J. Bauer, his colleague on the 7th Circuit, called him “a genius.”  Posner has written hundreds of court opinions and 40 books on many topics. Law schools have classes devoted to his legal rulings. He attended Yale College, was valedictorian when he graduated from Harvard Law School and started his legal career as a clerk for the Supreme Court of the United States.

“But also I’m skeptical about the other drug laws,” Judge Posner added. “The notion of using the criminal law as the primary means of dealing with a problem of addiction, of misuse, of ingesting dangerous drugs — I don’t think that’s sensible at all.”

He said drug laws are “responsible for a high percentage of our prisoners. And these punishments are often very, very severe. It’s all very expensive.” Judge Posner has pointed out that legalizing marijuana and other drugs would save federal, state and local governments $41.3 billion per year.

He said drug laws are, “…a waste of a lot of high quality legal minds, and it’s also a waste of people’s lives who could be as least moderately productive with having to spend year after year in prison. That is a serious problem.”

The entire speech can be found on YouTube.

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