LOS ANGELES – Speaking to this year’s Drug Policy Alliance conference on Thursday, GOP presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson promised to pardon all federal marijuana prisoners if he’s elected to the nation’s highest office.
Citing recent polling, Johnson excitedly proclaimed that because 50 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, the drug reform conversation can now take place “at eye level.”
“This is an issue that does really, really well when subjected to the light of day,” he said, but resigned that “zero percent” of elected officials support legalization.
“Can you think of any other area of public policy where there’s that kind of disconnect?” he asked. “I can’t.”
Johnson added that if just 5 percent of elected officials favored legalization, it would happen, but the reason it has not is because of a political system that “doles out favors to those individuals that are well connected politically.”
“This country is not fair,” he said, pointing to activists at “Occupy Wall Street” as individuals who would agree.
“That needs to change,” Johnson continued. “If elected president, I’m going to pardon all non-violent, federal marijuana offenders. I did this when I was governor of New Mexico. It is an easy process, and it enabled a whole lot of people who served their sentences to be able to live their lives going forward and enjoy the opportunities that this country has to offer.”
He added that if the U.S. legalized marijuana, it would cut violence on the border with Mexico by “about 75 percent.” Johnson also criticized current immigration policies for merely “adding guns” to an already lethal recipe of warring gangs fighting each other and U.S. law enforcement over billions in black market profits.
Johnson, an outsider candidate despite his status as the former governor of New Mexico, has only participated in two GOP presidential debates, but he continues to press for more exposure to party regulars.
Despite polling better than former Sen. Rick Santorum and former ambassador Jon Huntsman in a recent CNN survey, it is not yet clear if Johnson will be joining the other candidates on Nov. 9 at the CNBC debate in Rochester, Michigan.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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