Joe Exotic, star of Netflix's hit “Tiger King” documentary, is officially running for president. And if elected, he promises to make cannabis reform his number one priority.
Exotic, whose real name is Joe Maldonado, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison over a failed attempt to murder his arch-nemesis Carole Baskin, plus 17 additional charges of animal abuse. Maldonado has worked hard to capitalize on the success of the Netflix show, though, and has continued to release music, collect donations, and sell merch from jail.
Earlier this spring, Exotic declared his run for the US presidency. This week, he shared a photo of an official document declaring that he is on the ballot for the 2024 presidential Primary Election in the state of Colorado. Now that this feat has been accomplished, his campaign managers are working to get him on the ballot in New Hampshire.
On his campaign site, Exotic "vows to fight, first, to decriminalize marijuana nationally so that people like the ones he has met in federal prison no longer serve federal time for coming to Colorado and purchasing legal marijuana from a dispensary, then taking it home to Wyoming, Kansas, or anywhere else, which currently would land you in federal prison for interstate commerce of trafficking marijuana, no matter the amount."
“One person in mind he is fighting for is the memory of Justin Thao, who was on his way home from federal prison on a marijuana charge and was held at a federal holdover in Oklahoma called the Grady County Jail,” his website explains. “There he was beaten and tased by the staff and locked in a dark shower screaming for help until he hung himself.”
Exotic also touts the economic benefits of cannabis legalization. Adult-use states raked in over $10 billion in legal weed tax revenue between 2014 and 2022 alone. These states have put this revenue to good use, funding schools, infrastructure, social justice, and other essential programs. A recent financial report predicted that federal legalization would generate an additional $129 billion in tax revenue and add 1.6 million new jobs to the US economy.
“Colorado has been a prime example of what can be done with tax money made from the legalization of marijuana,” Exotic said on his campaign site. “Just look at the infrastructure that has been improved. Why would we not want to do this nationally to help fix things, instead of raising the debt ceiling all the time?”
Federal law blocks felons from voting for presidential candidates, but it doesn't stop them from running for president. Apparently, a federal inmate can also win an election and govern the country from the inside of their prison cell. This strangely chill law also benefits another reality star who leveraged his fame to become president in 2020. Donald Trump is facing several charges that could land him in prison before next year's election, but he isn't letting those details stymie his reelection bid.
Prison hasn't stopped Maldonado from running for president, either, and it also hasn't stopped him from starting his own cannabis company. In 2021, the Tiger King launched Joe Exotica Cannabis, which sells “Tiger Piss,” an infused seltzer made with hemp-derived delta-8 THC.