By Phillip Smith
Former President Jimmy Carter said he was fine with marijuana legalization during a Tuesday CNN forum. Carter supported marijuana decriminalization during his presidency in the mid-1970s, but now is prepared to go a step further.
He told CNN host Suzanne Malvaux that he was “in favor” of states taking steps to free the weed. “I think it’s OK,” Carter said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen in Georgia yet, but I think we can watch and see what happens in the state of Washington for instance, around Seattle, and let the American government and let the American people see does it cause a serious problem or not.”
Carter’s comments came as marijuana legalization has become a front burner issue like never before in the wake of the decision by voters in Colorado and Washington to move away from pot prohibition. Now, with marijuana possession by adults already legal in those two states, all eyes are on Washington, waiting to see how the Obama administration will respond to efforts by state officials to craft a system of regulations for marijuana commerce.
The former president also suggested that continued marijuana prohibition contributed to high incarceration rates, especially among racial minorities.
“It’s a major step backward, and it ought to be reversed, not only in America, but around the world,” Carter said, suggesting that the US should look to Portugal, which decriminalized as drug possession in 2000, as a model.
The Carter critique of marijuana prohibition and the war on drugs in general is little surprise. Not only did he favor decriminalization in the wake of the Shafer Commission report, which was commissioned and then ignored by his predecessor, Richard Nixon, in 1972, but he has since gone on to become an increasingly vocal critic of drug prohibition and proponent of marijuana law reform.
US drug policy has “destroyed the lives of millions of young people,” Carter said at a September forum, and he appeared last week in the drug war documentary Breaking the Taboo again arguing that the US drug war has failed both domestically and internationally.