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 http://www.garyjohnson2012.com 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.