GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson drew headlines earlier this month when he said he would issue a full presidential pardon for anyone serving a prison sentence for marijuana. He elaborated on that promise in a recent interview with The Huffington Post, adding that it’s only a matter of time before marijuana is legalized.
“Clearly it is when, not if,” he said of legalizing cannabis. “When 50 percent of the population says to the other 50 percent, ‘You belong behind bars for your actions,’ that’s not good law, that is just not good law at all.”
Johnson was referring to a recently released Gallup poll that found a full 50 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, with support for legalization as high as 62 percent among Americans under the age of 30.
The past two decades alone have seen a marked shift in public opinion on the issue, according to the annual poll conducted Oct. 6-9. When respondents were asked in 1970 if the drug should be made legal, only 12 percent agreed. That number rose to 28 percent by the late 1970s, dipped slightly lower in the 1980s, and rose to 36 percent in 2006. Support has spiked in the past five years, with 40 percent of respondents favoring legalization in 2009 before numbers jumped another 10 percent this year.
“I run across this all the time,” Johnson told HuffPost. “People in the country have a sense that we’re not arresting people for possession of marijuana when the reality is that yes we are!” The federal government spends billions of dollars and arrests more than 800,000 people annually for violating marijuana laws, according to a statement from the nonprofit Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“That’s how it starts,” Johnson said of the arrests, “and then there’s the process: you involve law enforcement, you involve the courts, you involve the temporary incarceration process of just getting booked. And I’m sure I don’t need to go into length about how discriminatory it all is. You’re pulled over, there’s marijuana in your car and depending on how you treat the officer that’s pulled you over for whatever he’s pulled you over for, you’re going to go to jail or perhaps you’re going to be told to go on your way. It’s terribly discriminatory.”
The former New Mexico governor has been open with the media about his own experiences smoking pot. After a paragliding accident in 2005, Johnson said that marijuana helped ease the pain.