The four third-party presidential candidates who gathered in Chicago for a debate Tuesday did find some common ground on some topics, including the legalization of marijuana.
Three of the four candidates — Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein from the Green Party — spoke in favor of legalizing and regulating pot on a federal level.
Stein said the problems around marijuana are associated with the health and safety impact of the illegal trade surrounding it, and legalization would be “the most important thing” the country could do to relieve them.
“On day one, a president, if she wanted to, could instruct the DEA to do a really, really radical thing, and that would be to use science in determining what substances will and will not be [federally] scheduled,” Stein said. “Because the minute science is used, marijuana is off the schedule.”
Johnson, a former Governor of New Mexico under the Republican party banner, said the country was at a tipping point.
“Fifty percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana,” he said. “Why is this the case? It’s because we’re talking about it. It’s because debates and discussions are raging at dinner tables that haven’t been raging at dinner tables in the past. So let’s regulate it. Let’s tax it.”
Anderson, a former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah as a Democrat, assailed the prohibition on marijuana as “failed” from the outset of the debate and later went into detail on some of the human costs, noting that he worked with then-President Bill Clinton to secure a federal pardon for a young man who had been sentenced to 59 years in jail for his first drug-related offense.
“We don’t just need to legalize marijuana, we need to end drug prohibition just like we ended alcohol prohibition and treat drug use and abuse as a public health and education issue and get it entirely out of the criminal justice system,” Anderson said.
For his part, Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode said he would cut federal spending on anti-drug efforts, but he was the only one of the four candidates to favor keeping marijuana illegal.
“I am not — and this is gonna not sit well with most of you — I am not for legalizing marijuana use or other drug use,” Goode said, motioning toward the audience. “If we cut back on the war of drugs, that would be a minor part of the federal budget. About $12 billion is being spent this year out of a $3.8 trillion budget on the war on drugs.”