Great news: Jimmy Carter on board with pot legalization

posted at 2:01 pm on December 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Actually, I’d advise marijuana legalization fans not to get terribly excited by this clip from the former President, who literally did nothing but talk about this issue when he had four years to do so.  In fact, Jimmy Carter starts off by reminding everyone that he called for the decriminalization — “not the legalization” — of marijuana during his single term in office, but never quite gets around to the fact that the one speech was the only effort he made.  After that, Carter manages to confuse the issue with the death penalty and the fact that rich white guys don’t get executed, which has nothing much to do with marijuana prohibition at all, except in Carter’s mind:

The Hill makes Carter sound more coherent:

“I’m in favor of it. I think it’s OK,” Carter said at the forum, which was taped Friday. “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 added that he thought it was appropriate to allow states like Washington and Colorado — which voted last month to legalize recreational marijuana use — to see how marijuana legalization would look. …

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

“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.

Well, no one being put in prison goes hand in hand with decriminalization, so that’s not exactly a metric on which to rely.  Carter’s right about Portugal’s rate of addiction, although the methodology might not transfer well to the US:

Health experts in Portugal said Friday that Portugal’s decision 10 years ago to decriminalise drug use and treat addicts rather than punishing them is an experiment that has worked.

“There is no doubt that the phenomenon of addiction is in decline in Portugal,” said Joao Goulao, President of the Institute of Drugs and Drugs Addiction, a press conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the law.

The number of addicts considered “problematic” — those who repeatedly use “hard” drugs and intravenous users — had fallen by half since the early 1990s, when the figure was estimated at around 100,000 people, Goulao said.

The decline doesn’t come from decriminalization itself, but from enforced treatment for addicts:

A law that became active on July 1, 2001 did not legalise drug use, but forced users caught with banned substances to appear in front of special addiction panels rather than in a criminal court.

The panels composed of psychologists, judges and social workers recommended action based on the specifics of each case.

Since then, government panels have recommended a response based largely on whether the individual is an occasional drug user or an addict.

Of the nearly 40,000 people currently being treated, “the vast majority of problematic users are today supported by a system that does not treat them as delinquents but as sick people,” Goulao said.

In order to achieve these results, we would have to involuntarily commit addicts to treatment even though drug use has been “decriminalized.”  I suspect that civil libertarians who cheer legalization might have a few issues with this idea.


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