It’s part of marijuana lore in America that Willie Nelson, the music legend, once enjoyed smoking weed at the White House. Nelson himself revealed as much in his 1988 autobiography.
As Nelson put it, he was “sitting on the roof of the White House in Washington, DC, late at night with a beer in one hand and a fat Austin Torpedo in the other.” Long known for his cannabis advocacy, Nelson is one of the most famous on the list of celebrities now in the cannabis business (a list which now includes Martha Stewart).
President Jimmy Carter now is talking about the White House incident, as well. Or he will, in a new documentary about his life called “Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President.” In a trailer for the film, Carter speaks briefly about the incident.
“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House and he said his companion was one of the servants in the White House, actually it was one of my sons,” he says.
Good Friends With Nelson, Bob Dylan
In what was a vastly different era in the United States, then-President Carter counted Nelson, The Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan among his friends. A peanut farmer from Georgia, Carter became president after first serving as governor of his home state.
Carter also was a friend to marijuana legalization. He favored decriminalizing marijuana possession during his time in the White House, which lasted just one term, from 1976 to 1980. He lost a bid for a second term to Ronald Reagan, who took the White House – and the country – in a different direction.
Carter never managed to change any drug laws at the national level. But he did manage to enact the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program that allows those suffering from certain conditions access to marijuana for treatment.
Nelson never named who he smoked marijuana with on the White House roof. But he did say his companion, who turned out to be Carter’s son, Chip, “was pointing out to me the sights and layout of how the streets run in Washington. I let the weed cover me with a pleasing cloud… I guess the roof of the White House is the safest place to smoke dope.”
Carter’s Stance on Legalization Today
In 2011, Carter authored an opinion piece for the New York Times under the headline “Call Off The Global Drug War.” He wrote that illegal drug use has increased around the world in the past four decades, despite the War on Drugs.
But he also wrote that the world would not look to the U.S. for advice today. “Drug policies here are more punitive and counterproductive than in other democracies, and have brought about an explosion in prison populations,” he wrote. “At the end of 1980, just before I left office, 500,000 people were incarcerated in America; at the end of 2009, the number was nearly 2.3 million.”
However, Carter has stopped short of favoring outright legalization at the federal level. He has reportedly said that he is concerned about too many young people trying marijuana and wants to ensure that safeguards are put into place to prevent underage use of cannabis.