America’s cannabis movement has a not so secret weapon: world-famous travel expert Rick Steves. The mild-mannered guidebook author and host of PBS’ “Rick Steves’ Europe” has campaigned for initiatives in his home state of Washington, Oregon and Colorado, taking pains to point out he is not pro-pot, but anti-prohibition. His belief is that legalization for those over 21 will reduce organized crime, diminish the number of minorities arrested for marijuana-related offenses and provide millions of dollars in tax revenues for states. Fresh off a tour speaking before legislators in the new battleground states of Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont (and Illinois last fall), Steves talked about his experiences, and whether his advocacy has affected his career as a vanilla-flavored — or shall we say, khaki-flavored — public television personality. This interview has been edited for length.
You’re a longtime advocate for legalization — when did you start, and why?
I’ve been a board