Arnold Schwarzenegger has caused outrage by claiming that “no-one cares” if people smoke cannabis, during an interview on a popular US chat show.
But when the law on cannabis was softened in the UK it turned out to be a public policy disaster with thousands of lives blighted by cannabis-related harms.
The actor-turned-politician was defending his controversial new state legislation which makes the punishment for possessing marijuana the equivalent to getting a traffic ticket.
He told chat show host Jay Leno: “No one cares if you smoke a joint or not.”
But Randy Thomasson, of family values group SaveCalifornia, blasted the former Terminator star, saying weakening the law “sends the wrong message to teenagers and young adults”.
“It invites youth to become addicted to mind-altering pot because there’s not much hassle and no public stigma and no rehab if they’re caught,” he warned.
In the UK cannabis was downgraded from a Class B drug to a Class C drug in 2004. The move was a disaster.
In the three years after the law in the UK was weakened the number of cannabis addicts receiving NHS treatment doubled.
The reclassification was also accompanied by a surge in the number of children aged 15 and under being treated for mental illness.
And a study lasting 27 years involving 50,000 people showed that smoking cannabis trebles the risk of a young person developing schizophrenia.
Eventually, in response to pressure from judges, police, parents and mental health experts, cannabis was re-classified back up to Class B.
Mr Schwarzenegger claimed that the resources needed to enforce the previous California cannabis law were not viable in the current economic climate.
“In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defence attorneys, law enforcement and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket,” he insisted.
The Hollywood actor was himself caught on camera smoking cannabis 33 years ago in a bodybuilding documentary.
Mr Schwarzenegger, who became California Govenor in 2003, has been accused of taking the liberty in his last couple of months in office to speak freely on contentious issues.
Last week voters rejected a proposal in California that would have made it legal for adults aged 21 and over to grow up to 25 square feet of cannabis and possess up to an ounce of the drug.
Opposition to the plan came from every major newspaper, both political parties and the two candidates for governor, according to US news group MSNBC.