By Brian Gage
The race for the Republican presidential nomination is turning out to be interesting, but not for the reasons you might think. You could even call it historic: two candidates who support legalizing marijuana want to be the Republican choice for president and one of them has used it in recent years for medicinal purposes.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is currently seeing a surge in popularity, supports legalization of all drugs.
The other, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico and former medical marijuana user, says he’s not afraid to show his support for the legalization of cannabis and has made it one the main issues he supports and openly shares in his campaign.
Johnson was New Mexico’s governor from 1994-2002. During his second term in 1999, he called for full legalization of marijuana and denounced the war calling it “an expensive bust”.
He admitted to using marijuana for medical reasons as recently as 2008, after a 2005 paragliding accident while on vacation in Hawaii. He fell fifty feet straight to the ground, suffering multiple bone fractures including his T12 or thoracic vertebrae, located between the cervical and lumbar vertebrae. Johnson also blew out both his knees and broke multiple ribs. This left him in significant pain and doctors prescribing him dangerous, highly addictive pain pills that were hard to withdraw from and had some nasty side effects. This led him to use marijuana — despite medical marijuana not being legal in New Mexico until 2007 — as he believed it to be a safer, more effective medicine that should be accessible to everyone.
Unlike his peers, Johnson certainly isn’t afraid of displaying his support for the cause publicly, says he is known known in many camps as the “marijuana guy” When asked about his recreational marijuana use from his younger days, he stated “I never exhaled”. Although he faces criticism from other politicians for his view on this issue, he won’t back down; instead he’d rather go to the root of the issue by being sensible and realizing that the war on or marijuana is an endless money pit — with over 800,000 arrests made annually in the U.S — that can't be won.
He compares this to alcohol prohibition, where after booze was pronounced illegal in the US, there was a surge in crime, mob and gang activity, and a significant increase in violence. What Johnson realizes that almost every other politician doesn’t is if we treat marijuana no different than alcohol, then we can implement a system that would tax and regulate it in the same manner. When the state and federal governments are cash strapped, a system of taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol could be a big way of helping them generate needed funds. After all, marijuana is the largest cash crops in the US, ahead of corn and soybeans by a long way.
Johnson is now using the marijuana legalization as a key issue at the forefront of his platform.
Last week, he made an appearance at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in downtown LA. There he went before marijuana decriminalization and legalization activists who praised his promise to pardon all people incarcerated for a non-violent marijuana offense. That would include our beloved Marc Emery who is currently incarcerated for selling seeds over the internet to customers in the US. Watch video of his speech.
Johnson sees marijuana users as the largest untapped voting segment in the country and with it now becoming a bigger issue with every year that goes by, he sees major potential in it long term.
His strategy of using marijuana as a political catalyst in the 2012 Presidential race couldn’t have come at a better time. With recent national polls showing 50% support for full legalization, up from just 36% in 2006, support is rapidly growing with more and more people realizing the “war on drugs” to be a war with no end with countless tax dollars being spent.
Although he's is behind in the polls, Johnson believes the marijuana issue is gaining a lot of traction and recognition and will ultimately help him in the race. It’s become too big of an issue to ignore, especially during an economic recession that shows no signs of letting up.
Next year should be an interesting one for Gary Johnson and the marijuana legalization issue, especially if the voters come out and show him their support.
Read an interview with Gary Johnson from 2010 on Cannabis Culture.
Article From Cannabis Culture and republished with special permission.