'Marijuana is not a drug, it's a leaf,' says Schwarzenegger

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The Independent US

Already facing enough problems with the wild fires that have swept California, the state's governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have stepped into a new row by claiming that marijuana is not a drug. In an interview with GQ magazine, the Hollywood star turned governor of California insisted: "I didn't take any drugs."

The interviewer, former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, put it to the star that he had admitted smoking marijuana in the past. In Pumping Iron, the bodybuilding documentary which launched his career 30 years ago, he was shown taking a drag on a spliff.

"That is not a drug. It's a leaf," said Austrian-born Mr Schwarzenegger, 60. "My drug was pumping iron, trust me," he added.

When George Butler's critically acclaimed 1977 documentary Pumping Iron was re-released in 2002, before Mr Schwarzenegger ran for governor of California, he was unconcerned by the scene showing him smoking marijuana, saying – in a pointed reference to former US president Bill Clinton who claimed never to have inhaled: "I did smoke a joint and I did inhale. The bottom line is that's what it was in the Seventies, that's what I did. I have never touched it since." Mr Schwarzenegger said that it was not necessarily a matter of public interest whether politicians had taken class-A drugs.

He said: "What would you rather have? A politician taking the stuff and not saying, but making the best decisions and improving things? Or a politician who names the drugs he or she has taken but makes lousy decisions for the country?"

The Republican governor, renowned for his green policies, said Washington had not done enough on the environment. "So we pick up the slack and show the rest of the world America is not just Washington. There are 600 mayors in America who have joined the Kyoto treaty. For us, it is very important that America gets back the great reputation it once had."

He said: "I think we have to do everything we can as a country to get out of the Iraq war, and to take a lead on the environment."

Despite his insistence that the US must finish the war in Iraq, Mr Schwarzenegger included Tony Blair in a list of the greatest leaders in history, alongside Nelson Mandela, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.

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