At meeting with state legislators in Atlanta, Ga., today, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said the dichotomy of “punishment versus rehabilitation” oversimplifies the issue of marijuana legalization. He said he worries about legal marijuana being marketed to kids; presumes marijuana revenues will be outweighed by the costs of abuse; and favors arrests for users that lead to treatment, assessments and warning hearings.
Mr. Carter spoke at a meeting that included state legislators and regulators from Colorado and Washington, and most of the states targeted for marijuana legalization in 2016. The meeting also was attended by the nation’s premier public health scientists, including former White House Deputy Drug Czar Thomas McLellan. Mr. Carter announced that he “opposed the legalization of marijuana” and predicted experiments with marijuana legalization in Washington and Colorado would go badly. He also said that he doesn’t believe in imprisoning users of marijuana — and favors SAM’s approach to legal reforms that include arrests with treatment referral and health assessments.
Pro-marijuana lobbyists nationwide have falsely characterized Mr. Carter as supporting legalization. Today, he set the record straight:
“I do not favor legalization. We must do everything we can to discourage marijuana use, as we do now with tobacco and excessive drinking,” President Carter told the crowd. “We have to prevent making marijuana smoking from becoming attractive to young people, which is, I’m sure, what the producers of marijuana … are going to try and do.”
“I hope that Colorado and Washington, as you authorize the use of marijuana, will set up very strict experiments to ascertain how we can avoid the use of marijuana,” Mr. Carter said. “There should be no advertising for marijuana in any circumstances and no driving under the influence. We need to avoid the use of marijuana, particularly among young people.”
Mr. Carter endorsed the strict list of 12 regulations created by National Families in Action’s “But What About The Children?” campaign.
“I’m very proud of Patrick Kennedy and his Project SAM, Smart Approaches to Marijuana,” the former president said. “I wish him and Kevin Sabet every success in your independent project to make sure marijuana is handled responsibly.”
When asked about decriminalization of marijuana use by Washington state legislator, Mr. Carter remarked that he believes arrests for marijuana should be in place and result in a warning hearing, treatment and health screening. He opposed permanent records for marijuana use.
“I said this 35 years ago … that I didn’t want to make it so that a person could possess … or smoke marijuana with impunity, but that they could be chastised, offered treatment, etc.”
SAM Co-Founder and former Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy commented:
“President Carter’s endorsement of Project SAM and rejection of legalization is completely in line with those of us who support mental health treatment and rehabilitation. His leadership on this issue is profound, and we are grateful for his support.”
SAM Director, former Obama administration advisor Kevin A. Sabet, said:
“We are overjoyed that President Carter endorsed Project SAM and our common-sense approach to marijuana use. Those of us who have watched for years as Big Tobacco has hooked our youth and denied the harms of smoking are now seeing this play all over again with regards to marijuana in our society. President Carter’s incredible leadership on this issue will help us set the record straight about a drug that is 5-6 times stronger than a generation ago.”