Former President Bill Clinton thinks that labeling him as someone who tried to hide his pot smoking is inaccurate.
“I didn’t say I was holier than thou, I said I tried,” Clinton told Jorge Ramos during an interview on Tuesday. “I never denied that I used marijuana. I told the truth, I thought it was funny.”
Clinton was famously lampooned for equivocating when asked about his past drug use during the 1992 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
In a television interview that year, he admitted trying marijuana. But he hedged on whether he actually consumed the drug.
“And when I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it, and didn’t inhale, and never tried it again,” he said.
Clinton might have been the first U.S. president to come clean about his marijuana use, but that didn’t translate into lenient drug policies.
He embraced a tough-on-crime approach to federal sentencing while in office. Federal and state prison populations rose more under his guidance than under any other president before him. Many of those inmates entered the penal system for drug crimes.
He also backed laws that excluded drug felons — even those convicted of simple marijuana possession — from receiving welfare, food stamps or public housing.
Interviewing Clinton on Tuesday at his home in Chappaqua, New York, Ramos asked Clinton about marijuana legalization.
“The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right,” Clinton said. “We have a process in America for doing it that’s being revisited state-by-state. And Latin America is free to do the same thing….It’s obvious that attitudes are changing and opening up.”
But Clinton made it clear that he didn’t think marijuana legalization would end gang violence completely, or that cocaine should receive the same treatment as pot.
“It’s also too complicated to say that if you legalize it, you wouldn’t have any of these armed gangs trying to exercise a stranglehold over whole communities and lives,” he said. “Or that we could actually get away with legalizing cocaine and then the criminals would go away.”