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Fed Up With Hillary And Trump? There Is A Cannabis-Friendly Option

If you can't stomach the idea of voting for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton this November, you're in luck. Last weekend, Libertarians voters chose a duo of two-term governors for the party's 2016 presidential ticket: former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (for president) and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld (for vice president).

Here's where the two former Republican lawmakers stand on marijuana.

Gary Johnson, waiting to exhale

Flickr / Gage Skidmore

In the summer of 2000, Johnson - then in his second gubernatorial term - became the highest ranking U.S. official to ever call for marijuana legalization. While addressing constituents in Albuquerque, Johnson declared, ''We ought to legalize marijuana." And he rebuffed former President Ronald Reagan's "tough on drugs" agenda by telling supporters, ''We need to stop 'getting tough' with drugs.''

That fall, Johnson joined former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura (Reform) and Hawaii Governor Benjamin J. Cayateno (Democrat) in calling on the federal government to decriminalize marijuana and other banned substances so that states could treat drug use as a matter of health, not criminal justice.

In 2010, Johnson caused more controversy when he told The Weekly Standard that he used marijuana medicinally between 2005-2008 while recovering from a paragliding injury. He said that he suffered a broken back, knees and ribs after falling 50 feet when his sails got caught in a tree. To avoid dealing with the unpleasant side effects of prescription painkillers, Johnson used cannabis instead. However, medical marijuana wasn't legal in New Mexico until 2007, so Johnson was openly admitting to breaking the law.

That was the first time he had touched pot since giving it up decades earlier because smoking hindered his skiing and rock-climbing ability. But that wasn't an easy decision for Johnson, who was fond of marijuana back in the day. When asked about his use in 2010, Johnson said, "I never exhaled," riffing on former President Bill Clinton's infamous denial.

In 2011, Johnson took his promise to reform America's drug laws even further by pledging to disarm the War on Drugs and offer reparations to cannabis convicts. As part of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Johnson held a conference call to discuss his political views. During the chat, he said, "I would do everything I can to defang the DEA." He also promised to pardon non-violent marijuana offenders via executive order.

Five years later, Johnson is still preaching the virtues of legalization, which should ensure that the issue comes up on the campaign trail as he makes his case as a viable alternative to Trump and Clinton.

Bill Weld, unlikely Libertarian?

If the Libertarian ticket were a buddy cop movie, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld would play the straight-laced counterpart to the wilier Johnson. Weld - also a former Republican - is much more of a government-interventionist than the average libertarian candidate.

As Brian Doherty of noted, Weld has supported expanding environmental regulations, gun control and affirmative action, all of which contradict libertarian values of personal freedom and small government. And while he supports medical marijuana, he was also responsible for enforcing the drug war as part of Reagan's Justice Department.

Perhaps Weld's cautious approach to other issues will appeal to moderate voters.

Does it matter?

Since Americans have never elected a Libertarian president, you might wonder if the Johnson-Weld ticket even matters. The simple answer is "yes," but the extent to which they will influence the election is up for debate. As CNN notes, many voters dislike Trump as well as Clinton, so Johnson and Weld could have an impact on the results.

"Even grabbing a small percentage of the vote in key states could affect the Electoral College calculus," CNN's Eli Watkins notes. And their stance on controversial issues such as marijuana legalization could force the mainstream candidates to adopt positions that will help them retain or grow supporters.

So don't get your hopes up for a Libertarian president. But don't disregard these candidates either - especially since the Johnson-Weld ticket of seasoned legislators are perhaps one of the most credible libertarian options in the fringe party's history.

h/t New York Times, New Republic, Reason, Washington Times, Fortune, Boston Herald


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