By "Radical" Russ Belville
Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson told the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard that he used marijuana for medical purposes from 2005-2008, before his state had passed a medical marijuana law.
Johnson has long portrayed himself as someone who has used marijuana. ”I don’t drink. I don’t smoke pot. But I have drank and I have smoked pot,” is a line I’ve personally heard the governor use in stump speeches at the NORML National Conference in Portland, the Seattle Hempfest, and he Cypress Hill Smokeout in San Bernardino, just three of the many pro-marijuana events Johnson has attended in support of his “Our America Initiative”. The Standard interviewed the possible candidate for the Republican nomination for president and became the first journalists to press Johnson on the time frame of his past-tense marijuana references.
“It’s not anything I volunteer, but you’re the only person that actually asked about it,” says Johnson, who governed New Mexico from 1994 to 2002. “But for luck, I guess, I wasn’t arrested.” Although smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes was illegal in New Mexico until 2007, Johnson says he needed the drug following a 2005 paragliding accident in Hawaii. His sails got caught in a tree, he stalled—and fell about fifty feet straight down to the ground, he says. Johnson suffered multiple bone fractures, including a burst fracture to his T12 vertebrae. “In my human experience, it’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt.”
“Rather than using painkillers, which I have used on occasion before, I did smoke pot, as a result of having broken my back, blowing out both of my knees, breaking ribs, really taking about three years to recover,” Johnson says. He explains that painkillers had once caused him to suffer nasty side effects and the pain of withdrawing from the pills was unbearable. So, Johnson says, in 2005 “someone” who cared for him gave him marijuana to deal with the pain.
The Standard points out that Johnson’s honesty about his illegal medical marijuana use may be a handicap in appealing to Republican primary voters but it may be easier to sell to the typically more-conservative primary voter than his stance on cutting the bloated defense budget and withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. He might also be an enigma to voters on both sides of the aisle with his support for gay civil unions yet opposition to a constitutional right to marriage (he thinks “government should be out of the marriage business and leave marriage to the churches.”) Women might applaud his support of a women’s right to abortion but think twice over his belief that Roe v. Wade was badly-decided from a constitutional perspective. Those Ron Paul supporters who might be attracted to Johnson’s libertarian streak might balk at his belief that “we really do have a vested interest in Israel” and his rejection of the 9/11 Truth movement calling for a reopening of the 9/11 investigation.
The 2012 presidential race will be featuring an incumbent who has disappointed much of his base, especially those of us who also “inhaled, frequently, that was the point”. There are already murmurs in Democratic and Progressive circles about running a Democratic primary challenger against President Obama, much like Sen. Ted Kennedy ran against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. On the GOP side, we may see Newt Gingrich carrying the neo-conservative vote, Mitt Romney appealing to the corporate conservatives, and Gary Johnson calling out to the libertarian-leaning Republicans. Throw in a possible GOP or even Independent bid from Sarah Palin, pulling the populist Tea Party votes, and I think Gary Johnson and the issue of marijuana legalization could win a plurality of the vote.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to vote for who doesn’t want to throw you in jail?