Justice Sonia Sotomayor Wrong to Dismiss Marijuana Legalization


Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor strangely dismissed marijuana legalization when talking to college students about the importance of political engagement. Justice Sotomayor, as a lawyer and a judge, should know the significance of ending cannabis prohibition. It is alarming that a Supreme Court Justice, who invoked the Civil Rights Movement in her speech to students, doesn’t understand the importance of ending cannabis prohibition and the entire Drug War.

While many want to scoff at cannabis law reform activism, ridiculing the advocates of just wanting to get high or to try and make it rich in a new legalized industry. However, what Justice Sotomayor and many critics miss is that marijuana legalization is about freedom and sound public policy. Marijuana prohibition, and the Drug War in general, takes away personal liberty and responsibility, ruining lives in the process, while not accomplishing any of its stated goals and wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

Activist Tom Angell found the video of Justice Sotomayor’s statements and covered it at Marijuana.com:

“We can only change the conditions you don’t like if each and every one of us becomes passionate about something,” Sotomayor said in the appearance at Amherst College.

“I don’t really care what kind of thing you become passionate about,” she said, before tilting her head and dismissively waving her hands, adding, “Maybe legalizing marijuana, but you know.”

And while Sotomayor followed up with, “Even that has people who have been passionate and have accomplished something, OK,” the implication was clear: Working on marijuana legalization is a frivolous waste of time that, in the justice’s view, would much better spent addressing a more meaningful issue.


The Drug War has been a terribly policy for the United States; it has decimated communities of color, stripping away educational, employment and housing opportunities. Marijuana prohibition is a huge reason why so many get ensnared by a criminal justice system that is imprisoning people for profit. Professor Michelle Alexander has called the mass incarceration of African-Americans due to the War on Drugs the New Jim Crow. It is rather insulting that Sotomayor would scoff at the work of Professor Alexander and others that have dedicated their lives to legalizing cannabis and ending the failed and harmful Drug War.

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.