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May 5, 2021

Mudflats Chats: Gov. Gary Johnson on Marijuana

Gov. Gary Johnson, and Brian the Mudflats Moose

Gov. Gary Johnson, and Brian the Mudflats Moose

I sat down recently with Gary Johnson, two-term Republican governor of New Mexico (1995-2003), and Libertarian Party nominee for President in 2012. Johnson is also the founder of the SuperPAC, Our America Initiative, which promotes Libertarian-minded causes, and is the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc.

He came to Anchorage to speak at a fundraiser for the Yes on 2 campaign which supports ballot initiative 2, to regulate marijuana like alcohol in the state of Alaska. The proposition will be put before the voters on the November 4 ballot.

This isn’t Johnson’s first trip to Alaska. In his quest to summit the tallest mountain on each continent, Denali was his first. He has only one peak left, Vinson Massif in Antarctica, which he plans to climb this coming Christmas – summer in the southern hemisphere.

I met with Johnson; Tom Mahon, the Development and Events Director oft Our America Initiative; and spokesman for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Alaska, Taylor Bickford at Denny’s in Anchorage, where we had the back room to ourselves, a table of chocolate shakes and time to chat about marijuana prohibition and the future of its legalization.

Devon: I’m sure you know this. But I was looking up election results from the 2012 presidential election, and you got about 1% of the vote nationally as the Libertarian candidate for President. In Alaska, you got 2.45%.

Johnson: Nice!

Devon: So there’s a nice Alaska factoid for you. You have a fan base here. You are 2.45 times more popular than the national average.

Johnson: Well thank you!

MARIJUANA MISINFORMATION

Devon: So, I covered a Prop 2 debate this summer, and I was stunned by the amount of misinformation that was being bandied around. And that was just sitting there and having an open mind, and thinking “this doesn’t sound right.”. When I got home and actually started Googling, it became much worse.  You must have heard it all by now.

Johnson: Oh, believe me, I have heard it all.

Devon: So, what’s the one most egregious thing, if you had to pick one. What’s the one that really drives you crazy?

Johnson: Well, none of it really drives me crazy, but… “The number one reason why we should keep pot illegal is because of the kids! It’s the children! It’s a gateway drug!” Well, it’s not a “gateway drug.” Government said so itself in a study in the 60’s. But here’s my response to the person who’s screaming at me because they don’t want their kids to do marijuana. Well, the fact is that statistically half the people you know have done marijuana. And you’ve probably done it too, but statistically half the people you know – friends, family, coworkers, kids.

Devon: And those are the ones who will tell you.

Johnson: The ones that will tell you. And do you believe that’s “a bad choice,” or do you want them to go to prison over it? Because ultimately that’s the decision that you’re making. And you have to admit that when you have… And I know this is kind of a toss-up in Alaska, but let’s say you have 51% to 49%. When you have 51% of the population saying to 49% of the population they belong in jail for this activity, then that’s wrong. For the most part, when it comes to jailable activities, that should be a 95-5% not a 51-49%. So, 90% of the drug problem is prohibition related, not use related. That is not to discount the problems of use and abuse, but that should be the focus.

And the bottom line is, if you have two children, do you want one of your children under the wrong set of circumstances to go to jail for making what you are considering to be this earth-shattering bad decision. Well, maybe it’s a bad decision, but should your child be jailed for it? And that’s always the base that I come back to. There are still 1.8 million arrests a year in this country for drugs.

There are still 900,000 arrests in this country every year for marijuana. And that’s an arrest – meaning they’ve got to be arrested, go through the criminal justice system, have an attorney, show up in court… It’s a horrible, horrible waste of resources. And we have tens of millions of convicted felons who, but for our drug laws would be tax-paying, law-abiding citizens. And that’s a phenomenon that exists.

 

SENTENCING AND THE PRIVATE PRISON INDUSTRY

Devon: Well, that brings up an interesting point I think. We were talking just a moment ago in a joking way about how legalization will help businesses like Denny’s. But you also have a situation where illegalization and stricter sentencing laws and stricter punishments help a private prison industry.

Johnson: Well, you see I’m going to disagree with you on that one.

Devon: Okay, how so?

Johnson: Well, having privatized half the prisons in New Mexico…

Devon: That’s why I ask. My question was how do you square that?

Johnson: First of all, the largest opposition, and this is factual… the biggest opposition to the legalization of marijuana in California was the public prison union. And in the case of New Mexico – apples to apples, oranges to oranges-because when I became governor of New Mexico, we were under a consent decree. The federal courts were running the prisons in New Mexico. So, on the private side we were able to offer the same goods and services for 2/3 the cost. And not once, not once was there any sort of lobby to increase penalties. I always said as governor of New Mexico, if we will adopt rational drug policy, and empty the prisons, it will be a lot easier to empty the private prisons than the public prisons.

And the notion of private prisons for profit? It doesn’t sound right. And so I get everybody that says this is wrong. But the reality, I have to report to you, is the opposite.

HOW THEY’RE DOING IN COLORADO AND WASHINGTON

Devon: The other thing I’ve been hearing everyone say is, “Oh, look at Colorado! Look at Washington!” And both sides say that. It’s like using statistics, if you have enough numbers, you can just pull out what supports your case, and what you want to see. But overall, what is your impression of how it’s going in those places?

Johnson: Well, first of all, Washington State is completely screwed up. And it’s because they’ve just started out. Colorado has had a bigger head start, and so it’s not as screwed up. And I believe that Washington state is going to work this out. And who is to think we’re going to legalize marijuana, and that everything from a regulatory aspect is going to be peachy keen from the start. It’s not. But you have to believe that, being front line – and I say that Alaska being in the top four, along with Oregon if Oregon does this. And I see Colorado as vibrant. Why would you not move to Colorado for everything that it has to offer? And Alaska also. Those are the glasses I have on. But in Washington, it’s just too early. They’ve got it screwed up at the moment.

Devon: And you’re speaking administratively – the way they have it set up? Or what specifically?

Johnson: Well, they don’t allow edibles right now. At all. Zero edibles. And edibles are the future – not smoking it. One thing that’s emerging out of Colorado is that the majority of everything sold recreationally is in the edible category. Washington is currently not allowing for any edible sales whatsoever, and the worst of all worlds was this notion, “Don’t get the government involved in regulating this because it will become so expensive and so difficult that the black market is going to reemerge.” And that’s exactly what’s happening in Washington state. It’s the tourists that are lining up for blocks to buy a gram of marijuana for $60 when you can buy that same gram on the street for $7.

Devon: So, do you think it will stay a tourist-driven business until legalization happens nationally, or that they will work it out?

Johnson: They’ll work it out. I have confidence that they’ll work it out, but it will take time – years. But is Washington ahead of the rest of the country? Yes. I applaud them for it, even with the difficulties. Look at the difficulties in places that have not done anything at all.

Devon: Another thing I hear is people say that there have been emergency room visits, and kids have gotten into it, and I think that’s a good fearful talking point right off the bat. But then you think about alcohol – and we know that prohibition of alcohol didn’t really work out so well. And how many people end up in the emergency room because of alcohol in one form or another, and how many kids get into the liquor cabinet?

Johnson: Exactly. And emergency room visits because of kids and marijuana – that’s something we should all be concerned with. So, you have responsible labeling as a part of manufacturing, it’s parenting, it’s personal responsibility. But I have always maintained that recreational marijuana is much, much safer than alcohol. There is no comparison.

CANNABIS SATIVA, INC. AND EDIBLES

Devon: Tell me about your company.

Johnson: Well, the future of marijuana is edibles. That’s why I’m so excited about the product – “Hi.” It’s a sublingual product. You just suck on these products. And we intend to brand the best marijuana products in the world under this brand, and it’s not smoke.

I haven’t had a drink in 26 years, but I had this lozenge that is the core of our line a couple years ago. And I was struck by a couple things. One is, why would anybody smoke it again given this as an alternative. And I have an aversion to smoking. At 61 years old I’m still a competitive athlete. And second, this is very, very, very pleasant. And here’s the way I describe the high. If you have a drink of alcohol, a couple drinks, you get to this point, and you think.. Ahhhh… I feel great. Do you drink?

Devon: Yes.

Johnson: So, whatever that point is for you. Where you just feel good. But then after about 45 minutes, you have to recharge, but you never quite get back to that “Ahhh… that feels great” place. Am I clicking here?

Devon: (laughs) Yes, I know the phenomenon.

Johnson: So, smoking pot is kind of the same way. You smoke it and in a very quick time you get back to that recharge place, 30 or 45 minutes later. But it’s worse because you’re smoking, and there’s every adverse thing that happens with smoking and smoke. The lozenge? You get to that point and it lasts for five hours. And it’s like a drink or two. You’re not drunk from that. It’s just, ahhhh.

Devon: How far along are you at this point? When do you get where you want to go business-wise?

Johnson: So I can point to all the pitfalls in the marketplace right now. We don’t want to do anything illegally. So we may be five years away from being able to manufacture our cornerstone product, because you can’t cross any state lines with the strain for example. So we can’t put our proprietary strain into any of these lozenges in Colorado because the strain doesn’t exist in Colorado. But we are in partnership development right now with a Colorado company, and we’re going to make a lozenge unique to Colorado, and we’ll label it, and we’ll probably call it a Hi-5, and it’ll be five 10mg doses in a container, and it’s as good as it gets. But in Washington, our product is not allowed by anyone to be manufactured. At least not right now.

Devon: I was going to ask you, so is this ban on edibles something they’ve decided up on permanently?

Johnson: No, it’s not permanent.

Devon: So this is just in flux at the moment.

Johnson: Yes, exactly.

Bickford: Not to interject, but I was in Seattle a few weeks ago, and stopped by Cannabis City, and they do have granola bars, and pita chips, and that kind of thing now, but no candy.

Devon: So then they just had things that most kids wouldn’t be as interested in? There aren’t too many kids going on a hunt and making off with a granola bar.

Bickford: And everything was clearly labeled.

Devon: They should disguise it as broccoli. Gummi broccoli spears.

Johnson: (laughs) Gummi broccoli…

Devon: It could work! And the name of your business is Cannabis Sativa, Inc.?

Johnson: Yes, we’re looking to rename the company but this is Cannabis Sativa, Inc.

Devon: Okay, wait just a minute… so you’re the “Big Marijuana” that the No on 2 campaign has been warning us about.

Johnson: (laughs) Yeah, that’s me. I’m “Big Marijuana.”

Devon: We’ve been told to be afraid of you, aka “free enterprise.” I had never heard of “Big Marijuana” before.

Bickford: And the opposition, calling themselves “Big Marijuana Big Mistake” has created this bogeyman.

Johnson:

Well, let’s draw an analogy between “Big Marijuana” and “Big Alcohol.” Would you rather have Tanqueray gin, or would you rather have bathtub gin? So, what we’re doing in this country right now is we’re creating a system of states where bathtub gin is being created, as opposed to Tanqueray being on the shelves. Ultimately, Tanqueray will be on the shelves.

Ultimately “Hi” will be there right alongside Crown Royal. Is that a bad thing? No, I think that’s a good things. Being known as the best, and many other companies lay claim to this too, but being the best, and being responsible. We will be a great corporate citizen, we will responsibly label the ingredients which will all be organic. And back to the analogy – Big Marijuana coming into Alaska to sell Tanqueray gin, as opposed to the gin we’re already making which comes from Johnny’s bathtub.

Devon: And to expand on that just a little, there are people in Alaska who brew beer, and very well. They have competitions, and it’s a thing. And that’s great- but not everybody has the ability, the money, the desire, the talent, the time, to do that themselves.

Johnson: So our model is that we’ll want to come into Alaska and partner with the best marijuana products being made in Alaska. We want to put that in our worldwide recipe book, so that when Oklahoma legalizes it, part of the recipe book will contain some product from Alaska – let’s say it’s infused ice cream. Well now, our Alaska partner, because we’re using their recipe, they’ll get a commission from that product sold in Oklahoma. Or in Hong Kong 18 years from now. So that’s the potential for what “Big Marijuana” brings to all this. The reality is that everybody’s got big ideas and we think that’s great, and we’d like to accommodate the big ideas.

NATIONWIDE LEGALIZATION

Devon: So, I think that at some point, once that snowball starts rolling down the hill, it’s hard to stop it. And once everybody in Colorado and Washington survives, I think it’s only going to be a matter of time before either all 50 states do it independently, or we have some kind of federal legalization law. So, if you had to just guess, when do you think that’s going to be?

Johnson: Eight to ten years. And at the end of eight to ten years, I’m also predicting that Mississippi and Alabama will be the two holdouts.

Devon: (laughs) Alright, you heard it here first.

Johnson: Somebody’s got to be the holdout. And then 20 years to a worldwide legalized environment. And here’s another prediction, in that 20 years 20% of all pharmaceuticals will be cannabis-based.

Devon: And that brings up non-recreational usage. In addition to all of the medicinal uses and benefits they’ve recently discovered, and all the ones yet to discover, there’s industrial hemp. And in Alaska in particular right now, we have a total petroleum-based economy. It’s something astronomical, like 90% of our revenues are coming from oil, which is a finite resource. And if you take the broad view, it’s on its way out as an energy source for the planet. So, you ask, what are we going to do afterwards? What is Alaska’s post-petroleum economy going to look like? And in the Land of the Midnight Sun, and the land of volcanic soils, and giant vegetables, and all of that, it has made sense to me for a long time that even if recreational marijuana were to remain illegal, why would you not legalize industrial hemp? Any product you can make from petroleum, you can make from hemp – plastics, and fuel, and solvents, and paints, and a whole host of other products.

MARIJUANA ON THE FRONTIER OF MEDICINE

Johnson: It’s just a no-brainer. It’s absolutely a no brainer. And let me point out another thing that you may already be aware of. CBD oil, and the effect it’s having on kids with epilepsy.

Devon: Yes, and other types of seizure disorders too, correct?

Johnson: Yes, and Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinsons… CBD has shown to be remarkable when it comes to cancer. Now, it’s anecdotal at this point when it comes to cancer. There’s also a compound CBG, which helps Alzheimer’s. But let me just focus on CBD for a second. There’s this wave across the nation to legalize CBD oil, because it doesn’t contain THC. You’ve heard this, right?

Devon: Yes.

Johnson: Well, I was talking to a molecular biologist in Seattle several weeks ago who said he was doing research with a young woman who was having 300 seizures a week. He gave her 4 units of CBD oil, and the seizures went from 300 to 50 a week. Then he said he added one unit of THC, and the seizures dropped from 300 to eight.

Devon: That’s amazing.

Johnson: So the point is that everybody, politically, right now is jumping on this bandwagon of CBD oil because it doesn’t contain the “evil THC,” but if you kick in the THC, look what happens.

If the marijuana plant were discovered tomorrow in the Amazon it would be hailed as the greatest human discovery ever.

Devon: But we have a history.

Johnson: We do have a history. And I don’t think that people realize on the medical side, with CBD and THC, that that is a direct competitor to legal prescription pain killers which are narcotics. And those statistically kill over 100,000 people every year!

Devon: Wow. No kidding.

Johnson: There are no documented deaths due to marijuana. And I’m waiting, because this is coming. A headline on the front page of every paper in the country will be the first documented death solely due to marijuana. And it’s coming. But look what you are comparing this to. Then they say, well yes but you haven’t legalized this. Once you legalize it so many more people will be doing it. And the good side of that is if more people are doing it, then it will displace more people doing alcohol instead, so you’re talking about a much safer alternative to alcohol.

And secondly – this notion that it’s not happening now? Come on. Hello! Half of everybody that you know is doing this at one time or another. Are they criminal? You might describe their choices as bad, but really, do you want to lock up your hairdresser, or your doctor, or your lawyer, or your teacher?

Devon: And I think it’s not only the effect that marijuana vs. alcohol has on your body – alcohol being a disease creator, and marijuana at least in a preliminary way now being regarded as a cure, or at least a mediator of symptoms – you not only have that, but you also have the behavioral result and the injury that is caused by that , which is very different.

DOGMA, and DECRIMINALIZATION VS. LEGALIZATION

Johnson: Yes, yes! And all of this is coming from people who have never done marijuana. These are the people who are opposed to it, and they’ve heard this dogma that we’ve all heard all our lives, and the dogma isn’t true.

And ok, let’s just assume that all of your dogma is true, now let’s go to the criminalization of the activity. Really at the bottom of your heart do you want to send your husband to jail? Or your kids? Or you? Don’t be a hypocrite. If you’ve done this before…

Devon: There but for the grace of that law go you.

Johnson: Yes.

Devon: The thing that I think is so crazy in Alaska is that you can have a certain amount of marijuana in your home.

Johnson: But you just can’t get it to your home.

Devon: Right! So if you can get away with being a criminal while you get it from your friend’s house to your house, you are then rewarded for getting away with it.

Johnson: And that’s the fundamental issue between decriminalization and legalization. If you decriminalize what you have is a situation like if this room was full- and over on the other side of the room in Johnny. And you say, “Hey, Johnny! They decriminalized pot here a couple weeks ago, and there are 15 people in this room who are dying for some weed, and we know that you’re selling it!” It makes it a lot easier for me, or someone else in the room to ask Johnny for some weed. But somewhere else in the room, let’s say, are some law enforcement officers. So the guy that’s selling it gets fingered, and that’s where law enforcement goes. They just go to the sell side of this. So, without legalizing it – people don’t realize that legalizing it addresses over half of the issue, which is the prohibition of selling it. They may not arrest you for having it in your home, but wink wink nod nod… how do you get it to your home? How do you get the seeds into your home to grow it, if you’re growing it?

Devon: Right, it’s sort of like saying, we’re going to turn away and you see if you can get away with it, and then if you can, we’ll reward you. It doesn’t even make sense from a parenting perspective. It’s like saying, “Ok, if you can sneak that cookie into your room without me seeing, then go for it!” It makes no sense to me.

Johnson: Right!

PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE

Devon: So what states do you think are coming next?

Johnson: Well, right now it’s Alaska and Oregon. And here’s what’s happening all over the country right now. And I’ll ask you if you’ve witnessed the following: thousands of cities right now and towns across the country right now today have some kind of decriminalize marijuana efforts going on. This is happening all across the country, every single day, and it goes largely unreported.

Devon: I’ve heard a bit of it. I’ve heard of some local municipalities

Johnson: Yes taking the bull by the horns. We’re not going to wait for the politicians. Let me ask you if you’ve noticed the following. 57% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, but at the congressional and gubernatorial level? Zero. Not one. Not one. Can you thik of any other disconnect between public opinion and policy that exists like that? I can’t.

THE LIBERTARIAN ARGUMENT FOR LEGALIZATION

Devon: Zero is pretty amazing. You would think that the Constitution being written on it, and the founding fathers having grown it – that it would be a sacrament to grow hemp. And I could argue that politicians, at least in Alaska, could frame this as a Libertarian issue. Alaskans of all stripes have a pretty wide Libertarian streak. But despite this, I’ve seen people who are in conservative groups, patriot groups, the Tea Party, Constitutional groups, who say you should be able to do whatever you want, but that marijuana should not have a structure where it’s taxed, or where it’s commercialized. That part of it bugs them.

Johnson: And no disagreement.

But if that’s the trade-off, giving that over to the government, and the trade-off is that nobody gets arrested, and nobody goes to jail, I’ll take it. I’ll take it any day of the week.

Devon: So, in a sense you are weighing liberty issues.

Johnson: And you look at Washington state right now, and they’re totally screwed up, but they will work it out. And thank goodness they’re getting the chance to work it out, as opposed to Mississippi, where it’s a moon shot right now.

IMPAIRMENT, AND WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

Here’s one for you, and something that you recognize already – right now one of the big problems with Colorado and the way they wrote theirs – Washington wrote it into theirs and Colorado adopted it – is that 5 nanograms in your system is “impairment.” It’s a DUI. Let me point out the following. Ross Ribagliati, the Canadian snowboarder who was the first gold medalist in snowboarding, in any Olympics, tested for 17 nanograms in his system.

Devon: He should get TWO gold medals!

Johnson: (laughs) He should get two! That’s what I’ve said! A double gold!
But are they saying you can smoke marijuana and win an Olympic gold medal, andn yet that’s impairment?

Bickford: One of the things I’ve noticed between marijuana and alcohol is that some people use marijuana as a form of self-medicating, and it actually makes them higher functioning people. And I know zero people who are better off when they’re drunk.

Johnson: I totally agree. Totally agree.

Devon: I totally concur with that. With the exception of Hemingway… and Faulkner, maybe.

Bickford: They are both intoxicating, but I do believe with marijuana, there are people who benefit holistically from it. People say it’s just a bad choice, but I don’t know that I’d call it that. I don’t know that they are.

Johnson: In the view of some people they view it as a “bad choice.” I’ll grant them they’re view, but I’m not viewing it as a bad choice.

I went to a drug warrior convention in Chicago when I was governor. It was like the leading drug warriors from all across the country, and I was their lamb for slaughter at this national conference, and I didn’t even realize it when I went. But I’m at a cocktail reception the night before this starts, and everybody is hammered! And they’re putting their finger in my chest… and I’m going, “Do you not see yourselves? Do you want me to hold up a mirror? You’re blithering!”

I made about two dozen trips to Colorado to promote the proposition there, and at one of the events I was introduced: “And now we have Governor Johnson and there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Governor Johnson is the highest elected official to ever advocate for the legalization of marijuana, going back to 1999. The bad news is that Governor Johnson is still the highest-ranking elected official to advocate for the legalization of marijuana.”

WHERE IS THE MONEY GOING?

Devon: So how did it happen? What got you on the bandwagon? How did you become that guy?

Johnson: Here’s how that happened. I really wanted to see a crack-down on drinking and driving, genuinely believing that there is a problem with drinking and driving. And the kickbacks from the courts and law enforcement were more money. And as simple as this sounds, and as obvious as this sounds, it just hit me over the head. What do you spend your money on?

Half of everything that they spent, law enforcement, the courts, and the prisons, is drug related. And it just hit me over the head. And what are we getting for this?

And I met with the head of the Republican party in New Mexico, and I said here’s what I’m planning to do. I’m just going to do an announcement saying I’m going to look at the “war on drugs” and I want to look at different solutions including legalization. Now I had no idea where that was going to lead. And it was a shitstorm when I released that. And the highest ranking Republicans in the state, when I told them that this is what I was going to do, they could not have been more supportive.

Devon: Really? Huh.

Johnson: Oh, totally supportive. They were like, “This is why we signed up.”

Devon: That’s surprising.

Johnson: Yeah, it is. But it’s factual. And so it took me less than two weeks to recognize all the facts, and I was just blown away. I thought when I launched into this that gee, I’m going to have to look at Amsterdam. And at the time I recognized that Amsterdam has crime out the roof. And I need to understand why that’s the case. Well the first thing I find out is that crime is NOT through the roof in Amsterdam. Crime has been reduced dramatically – violent crime dramatically reduced. Petty crime is about the same, but violent crime? Man… just gone.

Devon: Well, with Colorado, the increased crime was from disturbing the peace…

Bickford: And it was marginal. Only a few percentage points.

Devon: Right. But you have violent crime, and assaults, and murders that are down. And so, ok, you have a couple more neighbors calling the police because there’s loud Led Zeppelin happening next door. And opponents say, “certain types of crime are up!” Well, if it’s me, I’ll take that certain type of crime instead of the other kind.

Johnson: Yes, yes.

PERCENTAGES SPEAK VOLUMES

Devon: So what were some of the things you did as governor…

Johnson: I called for the legalization of marijuana. And I really pride myself in being reality-based. And I thought that faxes, phone calls, emails in to the governor’s office were going to be a 90-10% negative. I’m not naïve. I figured it would be 90-10. It turned out the volume went up tenfold, and it was 95-5% positive. Whoa.

Devon: So you knew you’d hit on something.

Johnson: Oh, I knew I’d hit on something really, really big. Really big. And here’s one for you too – and this is real. Everyone in my office can attest to what I am about to tell you. My first term in office as a Republican, ten people would come up to me on the street, and out of those ten people, one and a half of them would get in my face and tell me that I was the scourge of the planet. And it was because I was “anti-education” or “anti-environment” or anything that you’d label a Republican with. I was a Republican, and so I was labeled with that stuff. But when that happens – when one and a half out of ten people do that to you – that becomes a very predictable number. After I came out on this issue, the number of people that approached me went up fivefold at least. And the number of people who got in my face, statistically went to zero. Not that people didn’t get in my face, but it was so random that it became a surprise.

Devon: So you passed a litmus test question.

Johnson: And I’ll tell you, the only thing I ever picked up from George Bush is the following. He said, “Don’t ever get introduced to a crowd at an athletic event if you’re a politician, because there are boos. People will boo. And if you’ve got a handful of people booing, it sounds like the whole place. And that’s true. So I would always go to athletic events, and other events and tell them, “I’ll go to your event, as long as you don’t introduce me,” because I know the boo phenomenon. And I’d go to boxing events, and they’d introduce all the other politicians around me and the place is just raining boos, and I could sit there and know I’m not going to be introduced.

Devon: “The only politician not booed at the event was Governor Gary Johnson!”

Johnson: Yes! Because I wasn’t introduced! So, in 1998, I went to professional bull riding in Albuquerque with 15,000 people.

Devon: (laughs) As a participant?

Johnson: (laughs) No. Although I think I might have liked to…

Devon: Oh, man. I thought this was going to be a really great story for a second.

Johnson: (laughs) No, it’s not that good. But they introduced me. And there it was. The boos. It’s just what happens. So, the next year, in 1999, it came out highly publicized that I wanted to legalize marijuana. And I went to the same bullriding event, and I said, “Look, last year you introduced me. I’m not going to come if you introduce me. Do NOT introduce me.” And they said, “Oh, no. We won’t introduce you, we won’t introduce you.”

Well, they introduced me. Again. But this time, not one discernible boo. The first four years in office, I would be in the state fair parade. I got to be a really good parade cowboy, on the horse. And I swear to you, every time, you get these catcalls, and it’s not everyone, but you think to yourself, “Man… why am I here? Why am I doing this? I hate parades! I hate them for this reason. It’s not fair.” All because of those cat calls. When I rode in the state fair after I came out on the marijuana issue – none. None!

Devon: I’m picturing you like Caesar.

Johnson: Once I was on stage with Sammy Hagar and he introduced me on stage during the concert. And I didn’t think anything about it until afterwards when he said to me, “You are the first politician I’ve ever introduced where nobody has booed. I don’t understand…” And I said, “Sammy that’s the legalization of pot.”

Devon: (laughs) That was a friendly audience.

Johnson: Yes, and that was the reality. So many people felt is was long overdue, and thanked me. And now too I’ve come to recognize all these people who are in jail, and these tens of millions of Americans who are convicted felons, and who have had their lives ruined – not because of pot – but because of the prohibition of pot, and the criminal justice system.

VETERANS WITH DISABILITIES

Devon: (to Mahon) So what’s your one archetypal story from your experience as it relates to marijuana legalization? Do you have one that sticks out in your mind?

Mahon: I was in Wyoing driving the campaign van up I-80, and I needed gas. It was cold and miserable – just brutal. And I’m pumping gas and this guy comes flying into the parking lot – an old guy, a cowboy, and he walks over to the van. “Are you with Gary Johnson? There’s something I gotta tell you. I love that man!” he said.  “I’m so sick of the goddam federal government. I’m a veteran on disability. I’m a Vietnam war vet, and they’re trying to make me take morphine. I don’t want morphine, I just want to smoke a joint and I’ll be fine. I go home and throw the damn pills away. Here’s the government and they are trying to kill me.”

THE END

Devon: So, what’s our parting thought before we end?

Johnson: Two months ago they saturated the media in New Mexico that I’m now the CEO of Cannabis Sativa, Inc. The next day, I went to get on a plane, and I literally got high fives from people at the airport. I’ve been out of office for over ten years now. Out of office. And when there are kids – 20 years old – who want selfies with me, I think that tells you how people feel.

Devon: Well thank you so much for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to me. I really had a great time.

Johnson: Thank you. It was great.

Devon: I am so getting a selfie with you later…

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5 Responses to “Mudflats Chats: Gov. Gary Johnson on Marijuana”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    So,two marijuana plants walked into a bar and hopped up on a stool next to two Viagara pills. One plant lamented the fact that pot was not legal and a Viagara pill snickered. One plant says to the pill,”doncha think pot should be legalized?” Wherein the pill replied,”No ,we’re hard on drugs.” 🙂

  2. AJinAK says:

    Medical marijuana is already legal in Alaska, which includes transportation and a primary and alternate caregiver. And while it is illegal to transport marijuana (unless on the medical registry), it is legal to grow up to 24 plants in your residence for personal use, and possess up to 4 ounces of usable marijuana in your residence for personal use. My only question is if it’s already legal (and easy!) to grow so much, why would anyone want to pay such outrageous costs to have someone else grow it for them? Granted, the government could use the tax money, if only they would spend it wisely.

  3. Jag27 says:

    I know some people who are very stressed out when they drive and they would probably be better drivers and happier people if they did take a marijuana lozenge.

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Shame on you Shane Troll. You deliberately left out whitey wingnut option-get/stay stoopid.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    I’m an educator in holistic health. I’d LOVE to see legal pot. My clients could give up any number of dangerous prescription drugs. I’ve never tried edibles (other than homemade); the lozenge sounds terrific.

    Here’s something those of you who don’t indulge probably don’t know: Anything you can do sober, you can LEARN to do while on pot. It just takes practice. All the best computer programmers I know (and I’ve known many) code better on marijuana. I don’t know how to drive (I’m just learning, at 60 years old), so I wouldn’t drive on pot. However, I know many, many people who can smoke and drive without impairment.

    Good luck with the ballot initiative, Alaska.

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