Gov. Gary Johnson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, taking part in a debate over the merits of drug legalization.
Before the event, The Daily Caller had a chance to speak to the governor about his views on the drug war, and his other libertarian policies.
“I see a tipping point coming in 2016,” said Johnson. “We are going to legalize marijuana. You have 60 percent of Americans who want it. You’ll see California push it through in 2016, and then as many as 25 states will follow suit by passing laws through their state legislatures.”
Marijuana was legalized in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 26 through a voter initiative. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been supportive of the measure, but Congress still controls most of the laws in the nation’s capitol. Republicans have promised a fight on the issue.
“The D.C. battle over weed is an example of pure hypocrisy,” Johnson said. “You hear about Republicans beating the table over individuals and their own destiny, but it’s not okay when it comes to marijuana.”
When asked if he thought smoking a joint after long day’s work was the same as having a beer, Johnson replied:
“I think it’s safer than alcohol. Who is anyone to begrudge you as a human being the right to take the edge off the day by having a drink, or smoking a joint. Really? If you have issues you have to deal with, and weed helps you with that then more power to you.”
When it came to drug testing, however, Johnson believes aspects of it need to be kept in place to protect the work environment.
“Yes, we do need drug testing and we don’t want people impaired on the job.” said Johnson. “However, when it come to marijuana, the test does not detect impairment in any way, shape, or form. It simply tests for the presence of the drug. That can remain in your system for months.”
“I think that as a result of legalizing marijuana, we will become very enlightened as a country very quickly,” he said. “When it comes to the harder drugs being legalized, which we may see many years off, the first thing you’ll see is decriminalization. Would the world be a better place if we legalized all drugs tomorrow? Yes. But we are not going to do that.”
The governor also discussed the popular topic of methamphetamine abuse, and gave his take on how drug legalization could help decrease meth use.
“I’ve spoken with various judges,” he said. “And they all say that meth is considered the poster child for prohibition. However, meth would not exist but for prohibition.”
“Meth is cheap and easy to make,” Johnson explained. “If cocaine were legal, these people would never have gone to meth. Cocaine is still dangerous. It literally puts holes in your heart. But I think general legalization would help decrease the numbers of deaths we see from drug use.”
“One hundred thousand people die every year from use of a legal prescription painkiller. One hundred thousand people a year die from the effects of alcohol. It is estimated that 450,000 die from cigarettes. I was shocked to find that only 8,000 die from the effects of cocaine and heroine,” the governor said.
Johnson continued, “The first response people have to that low number is they think those drugs being illegal kept the death toll down. I would say that more people are dying with these drugs because of dirty needles and prohibition.”
“There will always be death with these drugs, but these stats should wake people up, and get us to ask ourselves, ‘What are we doing?'”
When asked about his other libertarian policies, and where he stands in relation to Sen. Rand Paul, he said:
“Rand Paul is a Republican. He is a social conservative. I am a flaming liberal when it comes to liberty and a conservative when it comes to dollars and cents. I’m sideways with Rand on immigration, marriage equality, drugs and military intervention.
“He wants to build a fence at the border. That is nutty. We are getting the cream of the crop when it comes to workers from Mexico. To say anything else is untrue.
“Border violence is based around drugs and the cartel. Drug legalization would take care of that,” Johnson said. “As for quotas, I want to make it as easy as possible for anyone who wants to come to this country to come in and get a work visa.”
Johnson closed by saying that it is up to the free market to dictate the direction of such issues.
“I don’t think there should be an immigration quota because I think the market should dictate how that works. If there aren’t any jobs they will leave. If there are still jobs, and they are willing to work, they should be allowed to stay.”
Gary Johnson garnered 1.27 million votes in the 2012 election on the libertarian ticket. More than any 3rd party candidate since 2000. He recently announced plans to run for president again in 2016.