Jimmy Carter On Legalizing Marijuana: ‘I Think It’s Okay’

Jimmy Carter has said he favors legalizing marijuana after states like Washington and Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Speaking during a CNN panel discussion on Tuesday, the former president said he felt legalizing marijuana in a few states was “good to experiment with.” Carter said:

“I’m in favor of it. I think it’s okay. 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.

“So I think a few places around the world is good to experiment with and also just a few states in America are good to take the initiative and try something out,” Carter said. “That’s the way our country has developed over the last 200 years. It’s about a few states being kind of experiment states. So on that basis I am in favor of it.”

Jimmy Carter, who added he has long believed the drug should be decriminalized, also dismissed the theory that legalizing drugs would produce a greater number of drug users, telling the panel:

“All drugs were decriminalized in Portugal a few years ago and the use of drugs has gone down dramatically and nobody has been put in prison.”

Many supporters of legalizing marijuana claim that ending the ban on the drug would help clear overcrowded prisons throughout the country. Carter seemed to echo this view when he said:

“When I was president, in 1979 I made my definitive speech about drugs and I called for the decriminalization of marijuana. This was in 1979 – not for the legalization but the decriminalization to keep people from being put in prison just because they were smoking a marijuana cigarette.”

The debate on marijuana legalization continues to divide voters. A poll released last week by the Quinnipiac Foundation suggested 51 percent of voters support marijuana legalization, while 44 percent oppose it. Most of those who opposed legalization were over the age of 65.

Do you agree with Jimmy Carter that marijuana should be legalized? And do you believe it could help reduce prison populations?