John McCain: ‘Maybe we should legalize’ pot

Drug war hawk John McCain is turning pot dove.

McCain appears open to making a dramatic shift on marijuana policy, saying during a town-hall meeting in Arizona that he's open to potentially legalizing weed.

“Maybe we should legalize. We're certainly moving that way as far as marijuana is concerned,” McCain said in comments first reported by Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller. “I respect the will of the people."

In the past, McCain has been a hard-liner on federal drug policy. During his 2000 presidential primary campaign, the Arizona Republican suggested increasing penalties and sentence guidelines for those convicted of drug crimes.

During a 1999 Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College, McCain said, “I can’t support the legalization of marijuana. Scientific evidence indicates that the moment that it enters your body, one, it does damage, and second, it can become addictive. It is a gateway drug.”

However, national attitudes on pot have changed dramatically in recent years. Arizona is one of 20 states that allow patients with a medical prescription to use marijuana.

A recent poll of Arizona voters showed 56 percent of respondents saying they favored legalizing small amounts of marijuana. Advocates of legalization are working to get a ballot measure before Arizona voters in 2014.

In 2012, McCain’s daughter Meghan told NBC’s “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno that she favors legalizing marijuana and admitted to having smoked a joint.

“Yes, I come out for legalizing marijuana in this book,” McCain told Leno. “I was living in Los Angeles very briefly last year, and I was shocked at how people here smoke weed the way people in New York pour wine.”