For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Cannabis policy of the Jimmy Carter administration.

Cannabis policy of the Jimmy Carter administration

During the administration of American President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981), the United States gave further consideration to the decriminalization of cannabis (marijuana), with the support of the president. However, law enforcement, conservative politicians, and grassroots parents' groups opposed this measure. The net result of the Carter administration was the continuation of the War on Drugs and restrictions on cannabis,[1][2] while at the same time cannabis consumption in the United States reached historically high levels.[3]

Campaign position

During his presidential campaign, Carter responded to a candidate survey by NORML, and stated that he was in favor of decriminalization of cannabis, as had recently been passed in Oregon in 1973.[4]


In a 1977 address to Congress, Carter submitted that penalties for cannabis use should not outweigh the actual harms of cannabis consumption. Carter retained Nixon-era (yet pro-decriminalization) advisor Robert Du Pont, and appointed pro-decriminalization British physician Peter Bourne as his drug advisor (or "drug czar") to head up his newly-formed Office of Drug Abuse Policy.[1][5]


Six months into his administration, Carter was already speaking in support of decriminalization of cannabis, replacing imprisonment with civil fines,[6][7] and removing federal penalties for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis.[8] Carter supported softer enforcement regarding cannabis and cocaine, while maintaining a stricter stance against the perceived greater dangers of heroin.[9]


Carter's momentum on decriminalization was impeded by the discrediting of Bourne, leading to Bourne's resignation on 20 July, 1978. Bourne came under controversy concerning his efforts to maintain the confidentiality of one of his staff for whom he had written a prescription for methaqualone. Shortly thereafter, Bourne's alleged use of cannabis and cocaine (which Bourne had previously characterized as being "acutely pleasurable" in "The Great Cocaine Myth," a 1974 article for the Drugs and Drug Abuse Education Newsletter)[10] at a party coinciding with the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws's annual convention was leaked to journalists Gary Cohn and Jack Anderson. NORML executive director Keith Stroup, upset about the Carter administration's continued use of paraquat on Mexican cannabis fields, said he "won't deny" that Bourne used the drugs and said that the refusal to deny was "significant." But he declined to elaborate. "I don't feel comfortable commenting about private drug use by a public person or anyone else," Stroup said. [11]

Grassroots parents' organizations played a role in building popular opinion against cannabis decriminalization. The group Nosy Parents Association met with DuPont in 1977 and impressed upon him that youth cannabis usage was hurting students and families. Following this meeting, DuPont scaled back his support for decriminalization.[12][1]: 29 

Carter was also opposed by conservative politicians. Ex-governor of California and future president Ronald Reagan used his syndicated weekly radio show to attack Carter for being soft on cannabis, and support stricter anti-cannabis policies.[13]

Congress ultimately ignored Carter's support for decriminalization, alarmed by a sharp increase in the use of cocaine, and seeing cannabis as a gateway drug.[14]

Compassionate Investigational New Drug program

The Compassionate Investigational New Drug program (Compassionate IND) was founded in 1978 by the Carter administration, providing federally-produced cannabis products to a limited number of assigned patients. The program was closed to new applicants in 1992 under the George H. W. Bush administration.[15]

Drug War in Mexico

Carter spoke in favor of Mexico's program, funded by the United States, to eradicate cannabis in Mexico, stating: ""Marijuana happens to be an illicit drug that's included under the overall drug control program, and I favor this program very strongly."[16]

Marijuana in the White House

In 1977, singer and songwriter Willie Nelson took a visit to the Carter White House.[17] Nelson, a known pot-smoker says he was approached by Chip Carter, President Carter's son, during his visit. The story goes that Chip knocked on the rock & roll legend's door and took him on an excursion to the roof of the White House. On the roof, the two shared a "fat Austin torpedo" and took in the sights of Washington D.C. in the night.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Rudolph Joseph Gerber (2004). Legalizing Marijuana: Drug Policy Reform and Prohibition Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-275-97448-0.
  2. ^ Kenneth J. Meier (September 16, 2016). The Politics of Sin: Drugs, Alcohol and Public Policy: Drugs, Alcohol and Public Policy. Taylor & Francis. pp. 61–. ISBN 978-1-315-28727-0.
  3. ^ Mark A. R. Kleiman; James E. Hawdon (January 12, 2011). Encyclopedia of Drug Policy. SAGE Publications. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-1-5063-3824-8.
  4. ^ United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency (1975). Marijuana Decriminalization: Hearing Before the Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, First Session ... May 14, 1975. U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 1101–.
  5. ^ John Hudak (October 25, 2016). Marijuana: A Short History. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 68–. ISBN 978-0-8157-2907-5.
  6. ^ Michael T. Compton, M.D., M.P.H. (March 18, 2016). Marijuana and Mental Health. American Psychiatric Pub. pp. 45–. ISBN 978-1-61537-008-5.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Martin Torgoff (May 13, 2004). Can't Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age, 1945-2000. Simon and Schuster. pp. 273–. ISBN 978-0-7432-5863-0.
  8. ^ Linda K. Mancillas Ph.D. (January 12, 2018). Presidents and Mass Incarceration: Choices at the Top, Repercussions at the Bottom. ABC-CLIO. pp. 53–. ISBN 978-1-4408-5947-2.
  9. ^ Mona Lynch (November 1, 2016). Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court. Russell Sage Foundation. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-1-61044-861-1.
  10. ^ "CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy".
  11. ^ "Cocaine - Sniffing Incident - The Washington Post". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ Andrew B. Whitford; Jeff Yates (September 11, 2009). Presidential Rhetoric and the Public Agenda: Constructing the War on Drugs. JHU Press. pp. 54–. ISBN 978-0-8018-9346-9.
  13. ^ Katherine Tate; James Lance Taylor; Mark Q. Sawyer (August 15, 2013). Something's in the Air: Race, Crime, and the Legalization of Marijuana. Routledge. pp. 80–. ISBN 978-1-135-01706-4.
  14. ^ Kyle Farmbry (August 6, 2014). The War on Poverty: A Retrospective. Lexington Books. pp. 94–. ISBN 978-0-7391-9079-1.
  15. ^ Goldman, Russell (November 24, 2009). "Man Sets Marijuana Record, Smokes 115,000 Joints Provided by Federal Government". ABC News. Retrieved December 3, 2013.
  16. ^ Carter, Jimmy (January 1, 1979). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Jimmy Carter, 1978. Best Books on. pp. 1329–. ISBN 978-1-62376-770-9.
  17. ^ September 08, Clark Collis; EDT, 2020 at 12:42 PM. "Watch Jimmy Carter talk about that time Willie Nelson smoked weed at the White House". Retrieved November 21, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ "Jimmy Carter Talks About His Son Smoking Weed With Willie Nelson on the White House Roof - Washingtonian". September 11, 2020. Retrieved November 21, 2022.
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Cannabis policy of the Jimmy Carter administration
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 ๐ŸŽ‰! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?