Jimmy Carter: 'I think it's OK' to legalize marijuana

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“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.”

The former president added that he did not think that legalizing drugs would lead to more drug users.


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“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,” Carter said.

Proponents of marijuana legalization have argued that ending the prohibition on the drug would help clear overcrowded prisons. Carter said he has long believed the drug should be decriminalized.

“When I was president, in 1979 I made my definitive speech about drugs and I called for the decriminalization of marijuana," Carter said. "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."

A poll released last week by the Huffington Post showed 51 percent of Americans believed the federal government should not interfere in states where marijuana was legalized. Of those surveyed, 58 percent said the federal government should also exempt medical marijuana patients and dispensaries from federal drug laws.