Gary Johnson: Fringe Candidate With Anti-Drug War Stance Is a Viable Third Option

By Victoria Kim 06/16/16

The Libertarian Party candidate is pro-pot, anti-war and has even admitted to smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes. 

Gary Johnson: Fringe Candidate With Anti-Drug War Stance Is a Viable Third Option

You may remember Gary Johnson from the 2012 presidential election—or maybe not. Back then, Johnson, who was governor of New Mexico from 1995-2003, ran for the Republican nomination. But during that election cycle, he was treated as even more of a fringe candidate than former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who also ran for the Republican nomination in 2012 but lost out to Mitt Romney. 

This time around, Johnson is running as the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the 2016 presidential election. Though the odds are against him, his third party candidacy as well as his support for drug policy reform “could alter the course of American history,” as Matthew Rozsa of Salon wrote in a recent feature. 

Back in 2012, Johnson was perhaps best known as the “pot candidate” for his brazen support of marijuana legalization, which was still sort of taboo at the time. (That was the year Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational marijuana. Since then, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. have joined them, with more states on the way.) 

Johnson admitted to smoking marijuana from 2005 to 2008 after a paragliding injury, and made a campaign promise at the time to “pardon all non-violent federal convictions for marijuana.”

During the 2012 campaign, some media outlets praised Johnson, who they portrayed as the potential nominee who was seemingly the best of both sides of the aisle—both a staunch fiscal conservative as well as anti-war, pro-LGBT rights, and pro-pot. GQ even ran a feature calling him “the sanest man running for president.” 

Some say that, given our current options this election cycle, Johnson is a welcome alternative. In a March CBS/New York Times poll, both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump drew historic negative ratings. Just look to the #StraightOuttaOptions hashtag on Twitter, and the general public's antipathy toward both candidates is pretty clear.

As for the other candidates' drug policy views, Clinton has stated her support for medical marijuana and for reclassifying marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II to facilitate research into its medical benefits. Trump is also okay with medical marijuana as a state-by-state issue. 

But though a Johnson presidency is a long shot, Salon’s Rozsa says the attention he will bring to drug policy reform will likely have a lasting impact on U.S. policy going forward. “Third-party candidates have a long history of supporting ideas that are ultimately picked up and implemented by one or both of the major parties,” wrote Rozsa. He cites the Progressive Party in 1912, which pushed for outlawing child labor, workplace safety laws, and workers’ compensation, to name a few.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr