Today on MSNBC, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that states should be free to try different approaches to marijuana and that the results of those "experiments" will help inform federal policy:
Chuck Todd: Do you see it as inevitable that recreational use is going to be legal in all 50 states in your lifetime?
Chuck Schumer: You know, it's a tough issue. We talk about the comparison to alcohol, and obviously alcohol is legal, and I'm hardly a prohibitionist. But it does a lot of damage.
And so the view I have—and I'm a little cautious on this—is let's see how the state experiments work. We now have the states as laboratories, different states at different levels. Colorado and Washington sort of opened the door. The governor's [medical marijuana] proposal in New York, much more cautious. I'd be a little cautious here at the federal level and see the laboratories of the states, see their outcomes before we make a decision.
Todd: But you believe that the federal government should let the states do this, because they could crack down and say no.
Schumer: Well, I think having the states experiment is a good idea.
This is pretty similar to what President Obama has said: that it's useful for states to function as laboratories of democracy in this particular area. That view is rather different from Texas Gov. Rick Perry's position, which is that federalism is not just a good idea; it's the law. Obama and Schumer probably both are more sympathetic to marijuana legalization than Perry, who says it's not right for Texas. But a principled federalism is a more reliable protector of state policy experimentation, since it does not depend on the whims of the president or Congress.
You can watch Schumer's comments here, starting around the 10:40 mark.
[Thanks to Tom Angell for the tip.]