Gary Johnson Won't Smoke Weed As President
Why is Gary Johnson Spending So Much Time Telling Reporters He Won't Get High As President?
Published on June 29, 2016

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson very much wants voters to know he's going to be stone sober throughout his fictional future presidency.

In an interview with Business Insider earlier this month, the libertarian presidential candidate ​explained he didn't believe a president should imbibe in marijuana. Johnson said if elected, he thinks a president has an obligation to "be the best that you can be" while holding the office.

During another June interview with USA Today, Johnson told the magazine "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 ... It's been about seven weeks. I want to be completely on top of my game, all cylinders."

What makes this all slightly confusing is Johnson is, by far, the most openly pro-legalization candidate running for executive office this year. Johnson has made clear his thoughts on the war on drugs (racist and counterproductive), whether weed makes you stupid (he's done it and he's just fine) and how recreational marijuana legalization is shaping up so far in states like Colorado ("absolutely vibrant"). He was even named the CEO of a major Nevada-based weed edibles firm named Cannabis Sativa, Inc. in 2014.

This progressive viewpoint actually puts the libertarian in greater alignment with the public than either of the two candidates. A national poll in early June found 54% of voters support legalizing the substance entirely, while a mere 41% answered with a hard no. Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's stance on ganja is as tepid as possible — earlier this month, she said "I don’t think we’ve done enough research yet" on medical marijuana, an issue even Republicans in the deep South have begun to come around on. Donald Trump has a long and self-contradictory stance on marijuana, and could still prove some kind of wild card, but has comfortably settled into the common right-wing belief the issue should be left to the states (aka no opinion).

In other words, both major party candidates view the legalization/decriminalization issue as too risky to take a stance on either way. They're damned if they do, thanks to paranoid soccer yuppies, and they're damned if they don't, due to the vast majority of young voters who support totally legal kush.

This political Catch-22 does not apply to Johnson whatsoever.

Johnson has virtually no chance of securing the presidency. To qualify for the general election presidential debates, he has to secure at least a 15% polling average. In 2012 he fell far short of the cutoff, filing an anti-trust lawsuit claiming the debate organizers were conspiring against third-party candidates. This year, the highest Johnson has polled against Trump and Clinton is 11%.

So it's weird Johnson is spending so much effort reassuring the public he won't be some kind of herb-addled burnout as president. No one who is not voting libertarian because of the terror of Reefer Madness at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is going to be swayed by Johnson saying he hasn't used marijuana since at least, like, ummm, March 2016.

It's reasonable to say the POTUS can't afford to be caught high in the situation room. But instead of playing into stoner stereotypes, maybe Johnson should just point out that the question itself is asinine.

Since the guy has the luxury of choosing which hills he will inevitably die upon, Johnson should probably start answering questions about his pot-eating habits with a proper libertarian answer: "I don't think that's relevant to my qualifications for the job."


Tom McKay
Tom McKay is a NYC-based staff writer for Mic and a freelancer covering national politics, media, law enforcement and the war on drugs. Follow him on Twitter: @thetomzone or shoot him an email: [email protected]
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