Former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders told CNN's Don Lemon Sunday that she supports the legalization of marijuana.
Bill Clinton appointed Elders as the United States Surgeon General in 1993. After leaving her office, she became a professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Arkansas.
"Many people say [marijuana legalization] would make a bad situation worse," Lemon began his interview. "How do you respond to that?"
"I don't think much could be worse than the present situation that we have," answered Elders, "when we have the highest number of people in the world being criminalized, many for non-violent crimes related to marijuana."
A recent study found that one in 28 US kids has a parent in prison, as Raw Story reported.
In all, 2.7 million US children have parents behind bars, and "two-thirds of these children’s parents were incarcerated for non-violent offenses," the study notes.
The study also finds that the US now has a prison population larger than the 35 largest European countries combined. The incarceration rate in the US is five times that of Great Britain -- 753 inmates per 100,000 people, compared to 151 inmates in the UK. Even the British incarceration rate is high compared to some countries: 96 in France and 88 in Germany, for example.
"Marijuana is not addictive -- not physically addictive anyway," Elders added. "Nobody says that marijuana causes violence. As we know alcohol can cause much more aggressiveness. You aren't as likely to hurt someone from using marijuana as you are from using alcohol."
"I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol," Elders told the New York Times on Friday. "I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana."
Voters in California will soon decide whether or not marijuana should be legalized. If passed, Proposition 19, also known as the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act, would make it legal for those over the age of 21 to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. The bill would also allow for marijuana to be grown at private residences and for the government to tax retail sales of the plant.
A poll conducted in October found that forty-nine percent of likely voters now support the proposition.
Attorney General Eric Holder stated the Department of Justice will continue to uphold federal marijuana laws, regardless of whether Proposition 19 passed.
The following video was broadcast on CNN, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010.