Jimmy Carter, the 39th president who occupied the White House at the time, recalled Nelson’s haze-filled trip in a new documentary, providing a slight correction to the musician’s own recollection of what transpired.
“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot in the White House one night when he was spending the night with me,” Carter says in the documentary, as quoted by People magazine. “And he says that his companion that shared the pot with him was one of the servants in the White House. That is not exactly true — it actually was one of my sons, which he didn’t want to categorize as a pot-smoker like him.”
The story has long been a part of American political folklore, with Nelson sharing his account in interviews and books through the years. In fact, in a 2015 interview with GQ magazine, Nelson coyly acknowledged that it was actually Carter’s son, Chip, who joined him on the roof to get high.
“Well, I don’t know. I’m trying to find out who that was with me up there. I keep asking people. Wasn’t me and you, was it?” Nelson asked the GQ reporter, who noted that the singer “has always declined to identify his accomplice in mischief.”
When the reporter asked if it was indeed Chip Carter, Nelson replied, “Looked a lot like. Could have been, yeah.”
After the GQ story was published, Vice placed an “awkward phone call” to Chip Carter, who confirmed, saying, “Well, he told me not to ever tell anybody,” before hanging up.
Now, with confirmation from the former president himself, it seems that we can put this one out once and for all. Former President Jimmy Carter made the remarks in the documentary, Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, which explores his kinship with musicians.
Carter and Cannabis
Despite the illicit White House rooftop hang, the ex-president’s record on pot has not been all that progressive. While he did push Congress to decriminalize marijuana back in 1977 for possession of an ounce or less, Carter has waffled on the matter of outright legalization.
In 2012, he signaled that he would be OK with an end to pot prohibition, which a number of states and cities have pursued but remains in place on the federal level.
“I’m in favor of it. I think it’s OK,” Carter said at the time. “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.”
But a year later, Carter backtracked, telling a meeting of state legislators in 2013 that he was not in favor of that.
“I do not favor legalization. We must do everything we can to discourage marijuana use, as we do now with tobacco and excessive drinking,” Carter said. “We have to prevent making marijuana smoking from becoming attractive to young people, which is, I’m sure, what the producers of marijuana….are going to try and do.”