Republican Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico has recently spoken out about his belief that the war on drugs has been a failure, and he has proposed the legalization of marijuana. His willingness to challenge the establishment, especially the leadership of his own political party, has stimulated a growing national debate on marijuana policy that was long overdue, and broken the myth of consensus—that all responsible elected officials support marijuana prohibition.
Interestingly, when Governor Johnson was first a candidate for governor, he publicly acknowledged that he had smoked marijuana, and that he had also experimented with cocaine. The voters of New Mexico apparently felt his prior drug use was unimportant, as they elected him to two successive terms as their governor. Governor Johnson is currently a tri-athlete who runs several miles each day, and avoids all drug use.
Here is a sample of some of the things Governor Johnson has said on the subject:
“The nation’s so-called War on Drugs has been a miserable failure. It hasn’t worked. The drug problem is getting worse. I think it is the number one problem facing this country today […] We really need to put all the options on the table […] and one of the things that’s going to get talked about is decriminalization […] What I’m trying to do here is launch discussion.”
—Gov. Gary Johnson, June 23, 1999
“Common sense or logic would dictate that when you take this issue on, when you talk about legalization or decriminalization, if you are going to talk about that, you are going to talk about taking it in steps, and certainly the first step would be marijuana. All of us can make a list out of friends that have used drugs. Are our friends criminals for using drugs? Yes, they are today given the laws that we have. Should they be criminals? Are they criminals? For the most part, no they are not.”
—Gov. Gary Johnson, June 30, 1999
“I’m not advocating breaking the law, but personally, I don’t think you should go to jail for smoking marijuana.”
—Gov. Gary Johnson, August 11, 1999
“I think 75 percent of the people in this country would say, no, you shouldn’t go to jail for smoking marijuana. […] Under the right circumstances […] I along with tens of millions of other Americans—we’re behind bars. […] I’m raising the issues that need to be raised. This is good politics. This is the job I was hired to do.”
—Gov. Gary Johnson, on MSNBC, August 15, 1999
“I’m going to enforce the laws that we have. But I think the laws need to be changed and I’m going to work within the system to change the law. […] We’re spending more and we’re locking more people up […] Personally, I have a fundamental problem with putting people in jail for drug use. […] What I’ve done since I’ve been in office is I have just done a cost-benefit analysis of everything that’s come across my desk […] And right now, the glaring cost-benefit analysis that has incredible cost and no benefit is our war on drugs.”
It is important that Governor Gary Johnson hear from people from all across America who appreciate his willingness to take on this issue in an honest and forthright manner, when so many of his colleagues lack the political courage to deal with marijuana policy honestly.The governor understands that marijuana smokers should not be treated like criminals and he has the courage to say so, despite great pressure from the Drug Czar and others to follow the party line.