When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn’t like it. I didn’t inhale, and I didn’t try it again. - Bill Clinton, 1992
More than 20 years after his infamous "I didn't inhale" comment, former Pres. Bill Clinton now says he was just trying to be funny. "That whole thing has been totally twisted," he tells Jose Ramos, who hosts his own show on Fusion.
Clinton also addresses drug legalization in the U.S. head on. He's very pro-pot and very anti-coke, which is not surprising since his brother Roger had a cocaine habit.
The interview, excerpted below, took place on Dec. 3.
Ramos: President Mujica from Uruguay just recently asked other countries to legalize drugs. And as you know in Latin America many people criticize the United States, because we are asking them to fight drug trafficking. And at the same time we have millions of people using drugs here. So are we failing the war on drugs?
Clinton: Well, I think there's a difference between - at least in the United States - what most people think about marijuana and what they believe about more serious drugs. There's a big debate going on all over America now at the state level about whether marijuana should be decriminalized. And we have a process in our country. That's the way we've always done it.
Ramos: What's your take on that? Is it more dangerous - marijuana than alcohol?
Clinton: It depends on what you do with it. But the states that have started this experimentation that, you know, they did it with a vote of the people. And they are now working out the rules. So I think this process is underway here. This rethinking this. And apparently it's being rethought in Latin America too. But I just think that it's all too complicated to say that if you legalize it, you wouldn't have any of these armed gangs trying to exercise stranglehold over whole communities and lives. Or that, you know, we could actually get away with legalizing cocaine, and then the criminals would go away. I just think it's like they get to call the tune, even if we would do things that, from a public health point of view, make life more dangerous to our people. I draw a real line difference between marijuana and cocaine.
Ramos: So marijuana should it be legalized here in the United States? I mean, you famously said that you didn't inhale for instance. President Barack Obama wrote that he experimented with marijuana and cocaine. So would you have answered that question differently these days?
Clinton: Like many things in the press that whole thing has been totally twisted. A very distinguished English journalist named Martin Walker said - and then all the other press covered it up, because it messed with the story - you know Bill Clinton told the truth. He literally didn't have the ability to do that. I didn't say I was holier than thou. I said I tried. I didn't deny that I did anything. I never denied that I used marijuana. I told the truth. I thought it was funny. And the only journalist who was there said I told the truth. So everyone else had to cover that up, because it wasn't the story they wanted to tell. So that's a silly thing.
Ramos: And these days?
Clinton: The serious thing is that the drug issue should be divided - decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right. 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. And that's where I think it is. So it's obvious that attitudes are changing, and opening up. But I still think that to somehow excuse from blame all these people who are killing huge numbers of people, and terrorizing others so they can make a double ton of money off of peddling cocaine is a mistake.