Gary Johnson Stopped Smoking Weed To Run For President

By Victoria Kim 06/24/16

The pro-pot presidential candidate says it's been seven weeks since he quit smoking pot in order to focus on his campaign.

Gary Johnson Stopped Smoking Weed To Run For President
Photo via Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s candidate for president, is getting a lot of play lately. On Wednesday night, the former New Mexico governor was on CNN for a “Libertarian town hall” with his running mate, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, where they discussed everything from foreign policy to needle exchange programs.

If you’re just getting to know Johnson, he ran for president back in 2012 as well. Back then, he was dubbed the “pot candidate” for his pro stance on marijuana legalization. The 2016 election is no exception. But this time around, given the overall discontent over American voters’ current choices for president, it seems that people are a little more serious about getting to know the Libertarian candidate. 

But, since marijuana is still, at times, controversial, Johnson continues to be known for his relationship with marijuana. In 2010, the governor admitted to smoking pot for medical purposes from 2005 to 2008 after a paragliding accident. He told USA Today in a recent interview that it’s been “about seven weeks” since he’s smoked pot, essentially quitting so he can focus on his campaign. “I want to be completely on top of my game, all cylinders,” he told the newspaper. 

“I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years because of rock climbing and the notion of being the best that you can be, and in that same vein I’ve stopped using marijuana of any kind,” he said.

Chris Cuomo, the host of Wednesday night’s Libertarian town hall on CNN, broached the subject with Johnson as well. “You stopped [using marijuana] seven weeks ago because you want to be sharp,” said Cuomo. “Where’s the consistency of your belief that it can’t harm you, if you stop taking it, because you thought that it would take away your edge?”

Johnson, perhaps misunderstanding what Cuomo meant by “edge,” replied by saying he’s all for an individual’s right to drink alcohol or smoke marijuana, as long as they’re not, say, getting behind the wheel of a car and harming other people. “When it comes to choices in your own life, you should be able to make those choices as long as you’re not doing harm to others,” he said. 

At another point in the town hall, audience member and undecided voter Maureen Morella of New Jersey shared the story of her son, who as a teenager did a “line of heroin,” became sick and vomited, aspirated, and was “left with brain damage so severe that now, 12 years later, he remains in a wheelchair with no ability to eat or speak, and he is fed through a tube in his stomach.” 

Morella asked, “Please explain to me how you think that legalizing marijuana straight through heroin can possibly be a harm reduction forum.” 

Johnson maintained that he does not espouse anything beyond pot legalization, telling Morella that “prohibition, really, is what your son succumbed to.” He cited the argument that under prohibition, since illegal drugs are not regulated, the potency and actual content is often a mystery, which lead to overdoses or, in Morella’s son’s case, permanent disability.

Johnson cited Zurich, Switzerland’s heroin maintenance program. “The idea was to reduce death, disease, crime and corruption, and that’s what happened in Zurich,” he said. Johnson also cited the success of Vancouver’s supervised injection facility, Insite, in reducing fatal overdoses and the spread of disease. Johnson said that on a local level, if communities decide to implement such programs, it wouldn’t be the worse thing. Existing harm reduction programs, like safe injection facilities, have been found to reduce fatalities, crime, and disease (hepatitis C, HIV) associated with heroin use. 

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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