Gary Johnson pushes drug legalization at 9/12 march

You don’t hear this pitch very often at Tea Party rallies.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2012, had a message for the few thousand who showed up on the Capitol grounds for Sunday’s 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington: consider marijuana legalization.

“We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world, that’s on a per capita basis,” Johnson told the crowd, making the argument that the war on drugs is an economic issue. “Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug related. We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug related crime.”

To scattered applause — and a few audible boos — Johnson said, “I suggest that legalizing marijuana will make this country a better place.”

He prefaced his plea for the Tea Party folk to take a look at the issue by admitting that his stance on drugs isn’t always popular. “I made a pledge to New Mexico that I would put the issues that should be on the front burner on the front burner regardless of the political consequences,” he said.

In an interview afterwards, Johnson told The Daily Caller that “with a little bit of knowledge, people really move on this issue.”

“Present drug policy is insane. If we’re gonna look at the economics of this country, drug policy is part of that,” he said.

The former Republican governor was profiled by the Associated Press last week as a possible contender for president in 2012 whose “libertarian views and small government platform fit the disenchantment many voters feel toward Washington.” The article included a quote from Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul —from an interview with TheDC — saying Johnson would be a suitable Republican nominee.

But on Sunday, Johnson declined to address that speculation, as he has done in past interviews, saying he can’t because of the non-profit status of his group. “I would be sideways with my legal status if I were to do that,” he said.

Others who addressed the Washington, D.C. crowd included Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence and conservative media mogul Andrew Breitbart.

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  • reasoned righty

    This is without a doubt one of those issues that people can’t look at rationally. The simple fact of the matter is if you get rid of your biases and look at the facts, legalizing pot is the right move. For the record I never have nor never will smoke pot.

    Marijuana is no more harmful or addictive than cigarettes or alcohol.

    The gateway drug argument, isn’t an argument. Its simply doesn’t make sense. How is marijuana anymore of a gateway than alcohol or cigarettes? Or for that matter sugar or caffeine?

    Marijuana was legal in the US for decades and society didn’t fall apart, it became illegal only after William Randolph Hurst used a smear campaign to make it and hemp illegal to get rid of business competitors. The fact that hemp is illegal is all one needs to see to know how irrational people are about marijuana. You can’t get high from hemp, however you can make paper, clothes and over 5000 other products from it….and its a renewable resource that doesn’t need a lot of water to grow.

  • Ezra

    It’s sad that people claim to be for small government when it comes to running the economy, but not when it comes to running your own life as an individual with personal responsibility.

    I’ve heard Governor Johnson speak of legalization and he comes at it from a fiscally sane approach of treating drug addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal issue. It costs a whole lot less to treat addicts and get them off of drugs instead of trying to round them all up and jail them.

    He has also pointed out that it’s never going to be legal for children to smoke pot or to get behind the wheel of a car in a condition that is dangerous to others.

    If people would actually start supporting smaller government instead of listening to the establishment message, we might actually be able to save this country from the oncoming bankruptcy. Instead you’ll focus on the programming you’ve received from lobbyist commercials and keep electing people like McCain and Bush.

  • thesauce

    Prohibiton under the Controlled Substances Act is absolutely unconstitutional. The fed has no authority under the Constitution to prohibit any substance since prohibition was repealed by the Twenty First Amendment.

    Under the Tenth Amendment, the onus of legislating prohibition falls to the States. States should decide for themselves what drugs should be legal, how they should license vendors, ID laws or whatever. These powers rightfully belong to the States. I want to end prohibition as a libertarian, but the most important thing is to restore the Constitution to it’s rightful authority over the fed and then let the States decide what they want to do about drugs individually.

    Everyone who wants to wreck their lives with dangerous drugs is already doing so; they do not care about our laws. We already have a national recreational drug that is legal, that is used every day, that kills people and ruins lives every day – and not just the users. The war on drugs is a war of choice that profits the most dangerous and awful gangsters, we can end this when we choose.

    Harsh sentances for those that endanger or hurt innocent people – of course. But a man’s home is his castle and there he is own master. If he wants to smoke a “doobie” of “chronic” why is that our business? He can kill himself with vodka – but not heroin? When he gets in his car wasted, then it is our business… but until then, shouldn’t he be allowed to destroy or enjoy himself as he sees fit? Leave him to do what he pleases while it does not violate others’ well being.

    So there’s your typical libertarian post about “drugs, dude.” That is all.

    • Newly Minted

      As someone relatively new to conservatism, how do you square away the 10th amendment with things like national parks? They’re not mentioned in the Constitution, so by your reasoning above they’d be unconstitutional.

      Believe me, I’m totally all in favor of taking a meat cleaver to the federal government. I’d support eliminating whole departments. But where I’m troubled is on what basis do we do this. Do we look at a program and decide that we just don’t like it? Or do we say that even though we like the goals of a program that it’s just not constitutional?

      I do see what you’re saying though, that the feds have a right under the commerce clause to regulate the drug trade between states, but can’t tell the states to make illegal whatever the feds say is illegal.

      • thesauce

        So that’s an interesting question about national parks. Apparently Yellowstone was established before Wyoming was actually a State. Yosemite was a grant of land to California under the condition that California preserve the land for recreational use. I guess Yosemite was meant to be run by the state but returned to federal control in 1905 for some reason or another.

        There is some complexity to this particular issue involving statehood and the federal jurisdiction over territories not belonging to the States, and (shamefully) I don’t really know enough about the history of our parks or the territories.

        It’s interesting that Lincoln entrusted control of Yosemite to California and did not intend to provide any continued federal support to maintaining the park. It seems to me that the State of California is the proper overseer of Yosemite and that it is their responsibility to preserve the land that they were granted as per the deal that they made with Lincoln.

        If I had to take a position without doing any real research I would say that the States granted federal properties under the condition that they preserve those lands are obligated to do so and that that conservation effort is their legal and financial burden, not the federal government’s. That the federal government has no authority to allocate our money for these efforts, or exercise any power over these lands outside the powers delegated to them in the Constitution.

        This discussion goes directly to Jefferson’s conundrum; can the federal government buy and own land in the first place?

        But that can of worms aside, I like the idea of having these parks and preserving these lands for posterity. There is some way to structure these parks legally that is deferential to both our Constitution and our desire to maintain the natural beauty of these parts of our country.

        We must preserve the Constitution and the clear limits that it puts on the federal authority. There may be useful federal programs that are unconstitutional but if it is necessary to grant the fed new powers there is a process to do that. I am for small government, but not “no government.”

        But if we don’t have any expectation that the federal powers will abide by the limits that we have set for it; how safe are our First Amendment rights, or Second Amendment rights? The law is sovereign in this country and no man is above it. Not me, not the Congress.

        So, that’s how I see it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jasmine-Clark/1785223171 Jasmine Clark

    this legalizing drugs thing makes no sense. why make it EASIER for people to get dangerous drugs?? it’s a bad idea.

    “Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug related. We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug related crime”

    so the conclusion is… the LAW is the one in the wrong? i think the people breaking the law are the ones in the wrong, not the law itself.

    we spend money on arresting for other crimes too. let’s make those crimes legal too, that way we won’t have to spend any money on arrests!! [/sarcasm]

    pot isn’t safe, it isn’t healthy, it isn’t good, there is a reason why it is illegal, let’s keep it that way. we need to DIScourage drug use not ENcourage it!!!

    • lipton

      Sorry but I disagree. Pot is freely available across America right now. Regulating it would make it harder to obtain not easier.
      The government knows perfectly well how to destroy an industry. Look at all the manufacturing jobs that have disappeared. Crippling regulations and taxes caused the decline of those businesses. Compare this to the weed industry, free of any regulations or taxes it continues to expand. This is the nature of free market capitalism.
      Finally you state that pot is unhealthy. It may be for some people, but for others it provides benefits. One size does not fit all.
      What is obvious is that prohibition has not worked, so why keep on doing it?