NORMLtv Interviews Gov. Gary Johnson: “We’re on the Verge of Making Marijuana Legalization Happen”

This past Thursday, on the night of the Vice Presidential debates, NORMLtv caught up with Libertarian Party presidential candidate, Governor Gary Johnson, and asked him questions regarding his views on marijuana legalization. In the interview, he discusses what he would do in regards to the war on cannabis if he were elected, why politicians are hesitant to back reform measures, and how he got into the issue while serving as New Mexico’s governor.

The governor is optimistic with the progress made and sees the issue of marijuana legalization reaching it’s tipping point.

“We’re on the verge of making legalization happen,” Governor Johnson stated.

You can view the full interview and read the text transcript below:

Erik Altieri: I’m Erik Altieri, Communications Director for NORML and i’m here with Governor Gary Johnson, libertarian candidate for president.

Gov. Gary Johnson: Erik, good job and where we’re on the verge of making legalization happen and it’s going to be Colorado.

EA: What I want to talk about today is, around 1999, you first came out publicly for marijuana legalization, is something you believed for a long time, was there an impetus to make it public?

GJ: You know I grew up smoking marijuana so that as a preface, what i understood right off the bat was that in no category was marijuana more dangerous than alcohol, that it was a terrific alternative to alcohol. Back in 1971, I, in my wildest dreams did not believe that it would still be illegal, that it would still be criminal, that people would still be going to jail 40 years later. And that’s what we have here.

So, when I launched into legalizing marijuana, I just wanted to take a really hard look at the war on drugs and I wanted to include legalization as a potential alternative. I had no idea the compelling argument that goes along with legalizing marijuana. So since 1999, it took about a couple weeks, and it wasn’t that it took two weeks, right off the bat I’m finding statistic after statistic after statistic that would suggest legalization was a much better alternative, and of course that had to do with Holland at that time, since then Portugal has added a lot of fuel to that.

EA: As you know, tonight is the Vice Presidential Debate, they’re probably not going to talk about drug reform. Why do you think that is? And if you have a spot on the stage what would you like the american people to know about marijuana legalization?

GJ: Well that 90% of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related. And that is not to discount the problems with use and abuse but that should be our focus.

So i think we’re at a tipping point on this issue and the reason we’re at a tipping point on this issue is ’cause everybody’s talking about it, finally. The more we talk about these issues the better. Why don’t we extend this to a whole lot of issues we are facing in this country right now like spending and entitlements and the endless wars we find ourselves intervening in.

EA: What would voters expect to be done on the drug war in the first year or so of a Johnson presidency?

GJ: Well you’d see…of course if i’m elected who has the wind at their backs and what are the people of the United States shouting at Congress? We want meaningful drug reform and that starts with decriminalizing drugs, it starts with legalizing marijuana.

EA: Would you be looking to descheduling marijuana?

GJ: I’m promising to deschedule marijuana as a narcotic. I’m promising to set up a process for pardoning individuals who have been convicted on victimless non-violent drug crime. I’m also promising to set up a system of review for everybody that is currently incarcerated for those same reasons and would commute those sentences.

EA: As you probably know, legalization polling over fifty percent, and decriminalization in the sixties, medical marijuana in the seventies

Yet, there are few politicians, other than perhaps yourself, Barney Frank, Ron Paul, come to mind, who are openly embracing marijuana legalization and marijuana law reform.

Why do you think they’re so hesitant to put their foot in the water, despite this polling data, which politicians usually live or die by?

GJ: It is the root of all evil, the root of all evil are politicians that want to get elected or reelected and in the name of getting elected or reelected this is the opinion when it comes to marijuana legalization, these are people with their heads in the sand. They’re running for offices, that they’re supposed to be providing leadership, well they’re providing no leadership what-so-ever on this issue, or on any issue for that matter.

EA: This is Gary Johnson, he’s the former two-term Governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian for president this year. Check him out at and thank you so much for talking to us.

GJ: And NORML, you rock. You rock.

Learn about the all the other presidential candidates’ views on marijuana reform, as well as all the ballot initiatives in play in this fall’s election by checking out NORML’s voter guide, Smoke the Vote.

44 thoughts

  1. Hey no fair!!! I made that comment (we’re reaching a tipping point toward legalization) looooonnnnng before Gary Johnson but nobody wrote an article about me 🙁

  2. I love Gary Johnson! I’d hate to think that voting for him would be a good thing for Romney (I hate Romney), but unless Obama clearly states that he intends to help us end this retarded policy, Gary will get my vote!

  3. Mr. Johnson, if you were on the ballot in Oklahoma, you would absolutely have my vote. I voted for Ron Paul in the Republican primary, and I just don’t hear Barack Obama or Mitt Romney saying anything that sways me. As someone who is fresh out of court and on probation for first offense felony marijuana possession, this is a very important issue to me. Bye-bye, money!

  4. I just cast my vote by mail & yes, i voted for you, Gary Johnson . If Obama & Romney were true Christians & Mormons they would do everything in stopping this stupid drug war . God does not like murders, torture, kidnappings . This is the work of the Devil .

  5. Love Gary Johnson’s positive influence on the cause. Please stay away from TeaPublicans when you vote.

  6. Bill M – You are so right! A true Christian would never choose to lock up someone just because of cannabis! They would do what the believe Jesus would want them to do and there is no way Jesus would condone what is going on today with regards to the way people are discriminated against because of it.

    As for the Mormons, I’m not sure about them… Is anyone out there familiar emough with the Mormon faith to let us know what a true believing Mormon would do with someone who chooses to use cannabis? My best guess is to let them live in peace; perhaps they would offer the person peace and compassion… I know for sure they would never treat a gay man the way Romney did in his youth.

  7. @Anonymous

    “Hey no fair!!! I made that comment (we’re reaching a tipping point toward legalization) looooonnnnng before Gary Johnson but nobody wrote an article about me”

    I guess it’s hard to get famous if you write under the pseudonymn, ‘anonymous’.

    Seriously, Mr. Johnson seems to have his act together on the issue of marijuana drug law reform-intelligent and well informed. My Representative in the US House seems far more concerned about the conservative national political agenda than in local politics. He thinks government spending is the source of all our ills. Yet he feels we need to keep spending money on the drug war. The drug war epitomizes wasteful, counterproductive government spending. My ‘representative’ represents exactly the kind of muddled thinking we need to eliminate from politics.

  8. Tears came to my eyes as I read this.
    I have waited so long to hear any senior figure in the community say something like this.
    I have been targeted as a marijuana activist and searched, raided and busted many times.
    May you be President Sir.
    Just one question;
    We call the Latin American gangs cocaine, cartels.
    Why don’t we call the Taliban and Al Qaeda, opium cartels?
    The violence and the quantities of drug cash are directly equatable between Cocaine and Opium producing regions.
    It’s ALL the drug war.
    American security is more focused on those guys than anyone else but we don’t discuss the fact that they are financed by illicit drugs. Legalizing drugs is the most obvious answer to undermining them and in fact all terrorists around the world and would mean more to securing US security and world peace than anything else.
    The President who ended the drug war would be deserving of a Noble Peace prize. If that has any value anymore.

  9. ” Mr. Johnson, if you were on the ballot in Oklahoma “,WOW……..unreal, they have at least 20 different candidates on the Presidential ballot in California with some i never heard before . I voted for, Gary .

  10. As tempting as Gary Johnson is to marijuana consumers and patients, the bigger danger here is taking votes away from Obama. It is unfortunate that Americans are forced to choose the lessor of two evils because the system is rigged.

    But ROMNEY is very dangerous to marijuana, far more than Obama. Somebody in this discussion asked how a Mormon would treat marijuana. The answer is simple. Of all the Christian religions, Mormonism (LDS) may be the most strict, even strangely strict. Practicing Mormons must refrain from harmless things like coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks, and even playing cards; and certainly things like tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, gambling, etc. are very bad sins. Notice how Romney wants to make most abortions illegal. This guy is on a religious mission to force his morality on Americans, and his first step is cracking down on abortion. Notice how Romney wants to “crackdown” on China and the Middle East too. Believe me this Romney is a ‘crackdown-kind-of-person’ and will solve a lot of problems with the cold fist of big business. President Obama is far from perfect and he has hurt medical marijuana dispensaries, but not patients. And thanks to Ogden memo millions and millions of MMJ patients have been largely free to grow their own and work as caregivers to supply their networks. This could all change if a morally overzealous person gets in the White House and wants to kick in the drug war like Ronald Reagan did. I can see it all now, Ann Romney is the new Nancy Reagan. And instead of having Michelle lecture you on eating your veggies, you will have Ann making sure that every American has a “clean temple.”

    Please fellow marijuana consumers and patients, I beg you, HELP KEEP ROMNEY OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE! Vote Obama 2012 or face an encore 1980s Romney/Reagan drug war only with a lot more sophisticated surveillance, technology… and penalties!

  11. Potheads will forget to vote
    Stoners will vote for gov. Johnson
    MMj patients will vote for Obbummer
    And everyone else in the nation will vote and ELECT ROMNEY !
    Hope to Change MMJ …..Not going to happen any time soon
    End the Drug War!

  12. This week’s presidential debate will be held in Hempstead. Many of our allies benefit from hemp farming and supply us with a valuable, natural resource that we are prohibited from producing ourselves.

  13. I’ve been “on the fence” about who to vote for. I keep flip-flopping between Obama and Gary Johnson. Johnson is the person I really want to be our next president but I continue to feat that a vote for him might help the nightmarish Romney… Well, I just decided – my vote will definately go to Gary Johnson unless Obama shows the courage to speak up for cannabis users before the upcoming election. I am bitterly disappointed in Obama’s actions (or lack thereof) regarding cannabis since our community helped him to become our president. Our president doesn’t seem to understand that the damage being done by our nation’s current laws are not a laughing matter that should be dismissed. He really needs to get on board or be thrown overboard; especially considering his past usage.

  14. @Jeedi

    I’m pretty much coming to the same conclusion. The only advantage to Romney that I see is he is not overtly hated inside the beltway the same way Obama has become, so he might well be able to get something done. Unfortunately, it is likely to be the same old stuff that got us into this economic nightmare to begin with. Ideology over simple practicality is the dogma today, whether it’s with the entire economic system or marijuana policy.

  15. If you support the war on marijuana, then please vote for Romney/Obama. Both are statists and will not change a thing.

    If you want something to actually happen, you have to vote for it, not against it. I know the years of brain washing are difficult to ignore, but don’t you want to future to be better??? Or do you just want to repeat the mistakes of the past by voting for them again?And Again? And again? and again? and again???

  16. @Paul Pot

    “We call the Latin American gangs cocaine, cartels. Why don’t we call the Taliban and Al Qaeda, opium cartels?”

    I googled ‘cartel’ and it appears to have a meaning similar to ‘trust’ in USA 19th century America. A collusion to control price and product. I guess the terrorists still don’t have sufficient control to be called a ‘cartel’. I’ve read the Taliban had eradicated opium production in Afghanistan. Production had simply gone elsewhere as it always does, but to your point it was NOT funding our mortal enemies as it is now.

  17. Potheads will forget to vote
    Stoners will vote for gov. Johnson
    MMj patients will vote for Obbummer
    And everyone else in the nation will vote and ELECT ROMNEY !
    Hope to Change MMJ …..Not going to happen any time soon
    End the Drug War!

    Doesn’t a comment like this seem really sloooow? I wish I had been the person who coined the term, ‘fecalcephalia’, but I can’t take the credit. I think this ‘comment’ really lacks the obnoxious edge that fecalcephaliacs excel in, anyway.

  18. If we don’t vote for Gary Johnson, neither Romney nor Obama will hear our voice. If enough of us vote for Mr. Johnson they will know we are here, and we are here in numbers. That is what motivates politicians, numbers. Get their attention now so you might have their ear during all the upcoming new reforms. Those reforms will need to be paid for and we do offer a very large source of revenue to go with our numbers. Sell it like this, Shouldn’t the government be in charge of the regulation of such goods rather than regulation by criminals. It is one of the very few things I actually believe the government does need to regulate. There is an entire new government regulatory enterprise for Mr. Obama And a huge reduction violence and demand for foreign supply with safe oversight and true control for Romney! Either way, in this climate, we can sell it. We just have to make sure they remember to ask our opinion. We have to make sure they see us. I understand now that almost 60% of the population is behind us if treated like alcohol. How are we losing at this? Also, please make sure the sleepier of those among us make it to the polls! Do your part! We’ll call it, “Drag a stoner to the polls day 2012!” or something like that! Remember the old Smokey commercial where Smokey says, “Only you can prevent forest fires?” Same goes for this. Only you can get that stoner in the corner to the polls! I know it’s a lot to ask while were fighting all those forest fires, but we can do it one day a year. Just tell him everyone’s going for grub! That’ll usually get ’em in the car!

  19. Gary has my vote %100. I also went to his website and purchased the “We the people…are pissed off” bumper stickers. And also purchased the “Gary Gets it” Support Marijuana tee shirt. That I will proudly be wearing quite often leading up to the election, and to the polls. up to the election.

  20. On the video,when Gary says ” these are people with their heads in the sand” he says at first ‘in their sand” and then within a split second, changes it to sound more politicaly correct. Like the consummate politician that he is,obviously on the highest order. Go Gary!

  21. correction,let me rephrase this:

    ‘ Gary Johnson is a consummate politician of the highest order’.

    unlike the other…well, you know 🙂

  22. Richard, you prob won’t be able to wear a candidate’s t-shirt to the polls. They may not let you in if you have it on.

    I live in a state that is absolutely going to go Obama (NJ). I, too, am worried about Romney getting in and you can be damn sure if I lived in a state that mattered this time around, I’d be voting for Obama. However, I am going to vote for Johnson.

    The person above who stated that Romney would be even worse than Obama on MJ is absolutely correct. Obama has been bad on it. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, but Romney will be far far worse. If you live in a swing state, vote for President Obama. If you live in a surefire blue state, vote for Johnson.

  23. No matter what war or battles this govt.inflicts on us,they will not savor it’s victories!

  24. For those who don’t know, Mormons believe that alcohol and drugs, including those found in some “hot drinks” are bad for the body. They do not believe in imposing that belief on others. I would expect Romney to treat drug abuse about the same way every other President has, including Obama.

  25. @ menacemoters – your simple minded generalizations trouble me..

    @ Jeedi & Galileo

    Excellent articulated comments, I agree completely..would love to support Johnson but since I reside in a major swing state (WI), I feel obligated to vote Obama because Romney scares the heck out me. While I’m certainly no poly-sci expert, it has always boggled me how any ‘drug’ user could vote conservative..Time and time again we have seen that liberals are more supportive towards ‘allowing’ us to dabble with our favorite plant. Obama has frustrated a lot of people(myself included), but I think some of those people have forgotten that he inherited george dubyas mess…If re-elected Obama could possibly soften his stance on drugs since keeping maximum voters happy no longer matters(I’m trying to say he wouldn’t have to worry about votes for a third term).

    I must admit that Johnson is very enticing however. While it is easy to admire his stance on pot, I get the impression he would have the nads to cut our absurd defense budget(a single b-2 stealth plane cost over 2 BILLION DOLLARS to build and operate…hmmm I wonder what stopping the production of a few of those would do to taxes and the economy)..

  26. I dont understand why such a god given medicinal herb that cures numbers of ailments and is enjoyed by so many and has never directly caused a death would ever be illegal.Sounds more like a battle between good and evil.God is good and he gave us the seed bearing plants to use and evil is trying to take them away.Good will overcome.

  27. My name is Chris Martin, I live in arizona and am the owner of Zonka medible edibles, we were raided for producing a great product line in our state. My wife and i are looking at 22 felonies. We followed state law as far as we could. We don’t know where to turn for support and help. they have seized all of our assets amd have no way to fight. I’d you check our website and testimonies online you will see we were legitimate and doing a good job. I don’t know how you might be able to help if at all. Just hoping for some directio. Thank you for your time

  28. Dear Chris, this is terrible and should not be happening to you and your family.

    Hopefully, we’ll be seeing things change with this election and folks in your position can finally receive some relief from these terrible policies.

  29. Jeedi,

    I completely agree. Obama has been a disappointment on the MJ front, but Romney would be a walking tragedy, would set the MJ movement back 15 years.

  30. Guys, Im sorry man . Did Gary get the 5 % to help him with his 2016 campaign?

    Enquiring mind’s,,, want to know?!!!!!

Leave a Reply