JOSH ELLIOTT: It’s also an issue that has left younger voters, the polls suggest, awfully disaffected. I know, as fiscally conservative as you’d like to be, and again, a lot of socially liberal views you do hold including, pro-marriage equality, decriminalization of drugs. I know for our audience, they are interested in these sorts of topics. With regard to the decriminalization of drugs and drug use, where, where do you stand specifically?
GARY JOHNSON: Well, in 1999 I was the highest elected official in the country to call for the legalization of marijuana. I think that was good news. Bad news, 2016, I’m still the highest elected official in the United States to call for the legalization of marijuana.
ELLIOTT: You said that you stopped using cause you wanna be knife-sharp?
JOHNSON: Knife sharp? Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I’ve always viewed the legalization of marijuana as making the world a better place. On the medical side, marijuana products directly compete with legal prescription drugs, painkillers, anti-depressants, that statistically kill one hundred thousand people a year. Not one documented death from marijuana, and like I said, directly competing with those legal prescription drugs. On the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse because people are going to find it as such as safer alternative than everything else starting with alcohol.
The campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado was a campaign based on marijuana is safer than alcohol. And all the statistics that were supposed to go south in Colorado have actually improved.
GARY JOHNSON: If terms limits were not to have been in effect, I might’ve still to this day try to be governor of New Mexico without having done anything the whole time. But second term, I’m reelected, well Katy bar the door. I’ve got nothing to lose. Four more years here, and so… And started that out with an analysis of the drug war.
I went to this, into the drug war saying, I really want to take a hard look on the war on drugs, and I want to include legalization as a potential alternative to what we’re currently doing. That was my statement. And it just, uh, shit hits the fan. And I was not naïve to that. But when you talk about popularity, um really, I think I ended up being very, very popular and I think it was because of that issue. That I ended up being very, very popular because that was something, and to this day it’s really not discussed. I mean, isn’t it amazing that it is just not even a part of the presidential dialogue? Drugs are not even a part of it at all? And I think part of that has to do with my being in the race and the fact that they don’t want to draw attention to just how insane what it is that we’re currently doing.
PENN JILETTE: I wanna, this is what, uh, there’s that great, I’m probably not going to get that (unclear). I don’t know where the quote exactly comes from, but never attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by stupidity. Why do you think the drug war has gotten so crazy? Some people say, it’s uh, it started out certainly as racism in some way or another.
JOHNSON: You know, I’ve got it, I do have it nailed. It’s politicians that beat their chest, and it’s political bogeyman that don’t, that don’t exist. It’s made up political bogeyman. So, made up political bogeyman in very many ways is terrorism, you know the threat of terrorism. It’s Mexican immigration. It’s, it’s the war on drugs. Um, what else we have out there that’s a bogeyman that doesn’t . So, so, the only way that you can save yourself from the scourge of drugs is to reelect me as your politician cause I’m gonna crack down on this hot and heavy. And, uh, mandatory sentencing, another one of those, one of those things… Look, we’re gonna lock up repeat offenders. Well we’ve got the highest incarceration rate in the world and what does that do bottom line to? It’s due to politicians beating their chest over an issue that um, really is not making the world any safer. It’s just causing a whole lot more people to be locked up for a whole lot longer time.
JILETTE: Now you know that, you may not know, but I am, I believe the only person to have been on the cover of High Times magazine who’s never smoked marijuana.
JOHNSON: I did not know. I did, I did…
JILETTE: So, I have, uh, I am the most pro-legalization of drugs that I think anyone can be without having any experience whatsoever with them. Um, but, uh, I’ve always disliked the idea of drugs. I’ve always thought that for the non-drug users, the best thing is legalization. It’s the chance of me being the safest. We should let people do what they want.
JOHNSON: Yeah, and for me, I haven’t had a drink of alcohol in 29 years. And for me, I do use marijuana products. I occasionally use marijuana products. Also, I think the worst thing about, in life, what is the worst thing in life? Well, the worst thing in life in my opinion is hypocrisy. Saying one thing and doing another. And I don’t want to be a hypocrite on this issue, but for me, I remember smoking pot for the first time when I was 17, and I wasn’t alone in that. I mean, we’re talking about a hundred million Americans. But the first thing I thought of when I smoked pot was, “Holy cow, the government sure lied about this!”. You know, they lie about everything else. I mean, it was such an eye-opening experience. And for me, and the campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado, the campaign was based on marijuana safer than alcohol. That was the campaign.
And I’ve always believed in, maybe you know this maybe you don’t. I was the CEO of a publicly traded company in the marijuana space. The idea, really, make the world a better place. On the medicinal side, marijuana products, directly compete with legal prescription painkillers and anti-depressants, that statistically kill 100,000 people a year. There’s not been one documented death due to marijuana. And then on the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less substance abuse because people are gonna find it as such a safer alternative than everything else out there starting with alcohol.
JILETTE: But don’t you think the medical marijuana thing was essentially jived? That’s what troubles me-
JOHNSON: That’s what I thought for starters. I really thought that. And I, and I’ve been in support of ti from day one but I thought it was jived. Until I’ve now come to recognize that really, it does directly compete with legal prescription painkillers…
GARY JOHNSON: Yeah, very exciting. Publicly traded, we’re publicly traded-
GILLESPIE: And the stock symbol is?
JOHNSON: CBDS. We’re at about a 12-month low on the stock, but I understand that. We’re a startup and the idea is, we intend to brand the best marijuana products in the world under the trademark ‘hi’. Small ‘H’, small ‘I’ – we trademarked that. We think we’re gonna do a billion dollars in shcwag sales eventually, because you’re gonna put our sticker on the side of your car cause it’s ‘hi’, and it really says it all.
GILLESPIE: Because that way the police can pull me over more quickly?
JOHNSON: That will be the downside of potentially putting a ‘hi’ sticker on your car.
GILLESPIE: Let’s talk about the market of, uh, legal pot. I mean, at this point, pot is, recreational pot is, legal in three states.
JOHNSON: In four states. And the District of Columbia. It’s legal in 24 states medicinally. The biggest obstacle when it comes to marijuana industry right now is that in those 24 states and the four states recreationally, every product manufactured in those states has to be grown, processed and packaged in those individual states. That is not the best scenario for the consumer.
GILLESPIE: And that’s because the federal law is still (unclear) you can’t cross state line.
JOHNSON: Exactly, exactly. So you can’t cross state lines with any of these products, and that ends up like I said to be, at this point, the biggest obstacle-
GILLESPIE: I guess Ohio has a pot legalization initiative in the fall. This year California’s gonna be having it on the ballot. When do you think enough states will have gone to recreational pot legalization where the feds will either actually make their stand, or just be like ‘Okay, it’s over.”
JOHNSON: Well, so, here’s my crystal ball. My crystal ball is, first of all, I think we’ve reached the tipping point. Okay, the walls, its falling. But when it actually crashes, my prediction is 2016 California at the ballot box makes recreational sales legally. And then I believe overnight 20 states, overnight, will legislate it and governors will sign it. And that will genuinely be, uh, the wall hit the ground.
GARY JOHNSON: Anyway, and then on the recreational side, I have always maintained that legalizing marijuana will lead to less overall substance abuse because people will find it as such a safer alternative than everything else that's out there, starting with alcohol. The campaign to legalize marijuana in Colorado was a campaign based on marijuana is safer than alcohol. All the statistics that were supposed to go south in Colorado have actually gone north.
GLENN THRUSH: Do you think, let me sort of intersect this with the current political argument. Do you think, you know, Donald Trump, one of the interesting aspects of Donald Trump is he's abstemious. He doesn't drink. He doesn't do anything. Do you think he would maybe be a more reasonable fellow if he partook from time to time?
JOHNSON: Well, perhaps, and that doesn't just apply to Donald Trump. I think when it's legalized. I think there's going to be the experience of millions of Americans who have abstained because it's been illegal and because it's been such a bogeyman drug. I think the reaction is going to be similar to mine when I did it, and that is, wow, this is very pleasant and the government's been lying about this my entire life, and maybe they've been lying about other things too.
THRUSH: So it's a mellow skeptical rage.
JOHNSON: It's a mellow skeptical rage. […] The only thing in danger, when it comes to consuming marijuana, is bags of potato chips. They're susceptible to damage.
THRUSH: But if they're Trump potato chips… […] Then I think you've got, what if Trump, I mean, the other possibility is if Trump brands. I mean, he branded wine, right?
JOHNSON: Well, maybe the marijuana consumer, maybe they're going to be a little bit more aware and won't fall for that one. I don't know. Maybe they'll be more likely to consume a product that's branded "Hi," as in small H, small I, which is one of the assets that Cannabis Sativa has.
THRUSH: Well, and there are two kinds, something I didn't really realize, there are two kinds of marijuana, right? There's cannabis and what's the other one?
JOHNSON: Well, no, there's sativa-
THRUSH: Sativa. I'm sorry.
JOHNSON: And there's indica. Indica is go-to-sleep marijuana and sativa is clean-your-house marijuana with a smile.
THRUSH: And you're going to clean house… No, the, I should just say, in full disclosure, it was not something I had done, really, at all, as a kid. I've done it in the last couple of years from time to time, to deal with whatever stress or whatever people who've got medical marijuana cards, I just want to be frank about that, and I have found it totally different than the stuff I had when I was a kid, which you had to go to Washington Square Park and the Village to get, and half the time it was oregano.
JOHNSON: Right. Right. No, that, well, that's prohibition. That's overdose deaths. That's heroin overdose. That has everything to do with prohibition, quality, quantity unknown.
THRUSH: So in terms of this, and, of course, this is, marijuana is not just a trivial side note in this conversation. It is, no pun intended, sort of the seed of a larger political ideology that you represent, which is non-prohibition on things and a lack of government intervention in general on most matters.
JOHNSON: Well, let me, you know, there's this talk right now about the heroin epidemic. Let me point out some fact that maybe you're not aware of, Glenn, so I'm going to give you a little quiz here. Four hundred fifty thousand people are estimated to die every year from their use of tobacco. One hundred thousand people every year are estimated to die from their use of alcohol - not drinking and driving, not guns, but just the physical impacts of using alcohol, 100,000 people. One hundred thousand people are estimated to die every year from their use of legal prescription drugs. Here we go with the question. This was a shock to me. How many people die every year from cocaine and heroin overdose, based on those other numbers?
THRUSH: Five to ten thousand would be my guess.
JOHNSON: You're right. You're right on. And, of course, the initial knee-jerk is that-
THRUSH: But your alcohol numbers, I think are low-balling it tremendously, because there is a, I think alcohol, I totally agree with you, man. I think alcohol is the most dangerous substance this country has ever known.
JOHNSON: I agree. I agree.
THRUSH: Because there's a knock-on effect that's far more profound societally than just can be quantified by deaths, you know.
JOHNSON: Yes. Oh, absolutely. And so the knee-jerk is, well, of course it's that low, because, and most people don't guess that low. Most people don't make that kind of an educated guess. Most people guess 100,000, you know, 300,000. But bottom line, you could argue that if these were controlled substances, if you actually knew what you were injecting, that that number would be far lower than what it is, because what kills is quality, quantity unknown. What kills is that your dealer forever has now gotten arrested and he's off in jail, and the next day you get the same visual quantity of heroin that you've been consuming for all this time, but, hey, the quality of it is way up and so you end up overdosing.
When they talk about a heroin epidemic right now and, you know, statistics, look, if you're affected by overdose, or, you know, the death due to overdose, I'm not wanting to minimize the impact that this has on individuals. But when you're talking about statistically going from 80 overdose deaths in a state to 92, statistically that's a pretty big number, but the reality is it's not all that big a number.
THRUSH: With oxy, the oxy and prescription thing is, I think, a much larger issue, but that's American in general. It's the legalized stuff that always causes the maximal damage, right, historically.
JOHNSON: Well, and that's, you know, that's back to the FDA and doctors prescribing what is legal, and it's politicians that have passed legislation that this is your only alternative.