Gary Johnson on Illegal Drugs

Last Updated : Jul 23, 2012


Governor Johnson supports the full legalization of marijuana to bring the industry into the light and to add a source of revenue to the government instead of fighting a losing war on drugs that utilizes resources in an effort to lock up people whose only fault is that they are addicted to drugs. In describing this move, Governor Johnson states that we should enact sentencing reform, supply treatment on demand, and enact honest drug education for our children. He supports heroin maintenance and other harm reduction measures and states that this is a move from a criminal to a medical model of dealing with drug usage.

There are numeorus interviews, debates, and op-eds available from Governor Johnson relating to his views on the subject. While these interviews span a number of years, Governor Johnson's view on the matter has remained consistent.

2012 Plan


AMERICANS WERE PROMISED IN THE 1970'S AND 1980's that hefty enforcement budgets and tougher sentences would lead to less crime and drug abuse.

  • We have all been raised to believe that there are only two camps in the drug policy universe -- "pro-drug" and "anti-drug" -- and that any person who does not support the "War on Drugs" is automatically "pro-drug." This simply isn't the case.
  • Since only criminal gangs and cartels are willing to take the risks associated with large-scale black market distribution, the War on Drugs has made a lot of dangerous people and organizations very rich and very powerful.
  • The same happened with Alcohol Prohibition (1920-1933). Prohibition had only a minimal effect on the desire of Americans to drink (in some cases, it clearly made drinking more attractive), but pushing alcohol underground had other effects: overdose deaths, gang violence, and other prohibition-related harms increased dramatically during the Prohibition years.


OVER A MILLION AND A HALF AMERICANS were arrested last year on drug charges, and nearly 40% of those arrests were for marijuana possession alone. Does this make sense?

  • A recent Gallup poll reports that 46% of Americans now agree that marijuana should be legalized, a dramatic increase in support that reflects Americans' increased knowledge and understanding of the issue. Proposals to regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol have been considered in several states, and Governor Johnson has supported those efforts; he believes the federal government should end its prohibition mandate and allow each state to pursue its own desired policy.
  • Governor Johnson believes it is insane to arrest roughly 800,000 people a year for choosing to use a natural substance that is, by any reasonable objective standard, less harmful than alcohol, a drug that is advertised at every major sporting event.
  • As Governor Johnson often points out to concerned parents, "it will never be legal for a person to smoke marijuana, become impaired, and get behind the wheel of a car or otherwise do harm to others, and it will never be legal for kids to smoke marijuana." But we have to understand that marijuana is our nation's #1 cash crop despite the prohibition; it will always be available to those who really wish to use it.
  • When polled, high school kids say marijuana is easier to get than alcohol. Perhaps this is because they buy from black market dealers who do not ask for ID?
  • Legalization of marijuana would instantly and dramatically improve conditions on our southern border. Marijuana is Mexico's #1 illegal export, dramatically reducing the power and wealth of the drug lords, and instantly helping to restore stability in a nation whose stability and sustainability is truly vital to our economic and national security interests. If we truly wish to reduce border violence, take the profit out of it.


BEFORE WE CAN GET SERIOUS ABOUT REDUCING the harms associated with drugs, we have to accept that there will never be a drug-free society.

  • To create a drug-free society, we'd have to build a police apparatus so intrusive that all Americans would have to be under surveillance 24 hours a day... presumably for their own good. Would citizens of the "land of the free" ever stand for that?
  • Abuse of hard drugs is a health problem that should be dealt with by health experts, not a problem that should be clogging up our courts, jails, and prisons with addicts. Instead of continuing to arrest and incarcerate drug users, we should seriously consider the examples of countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands, and we should ultimately choose to adopt policies which aim to reduce death, disease, violence, and crime associated with dangerous drugs.
  • Honest, effective education will be key to succeeding with this transition. America has cut teen cigarette use in half, not by criminalizing possession and use, but through a combination of honest education and sensible regulation.
  • We can never totally eliminate drug addiction and drug abuse. We can, however, minimize these harms and reduce the negative effects they have on society by making sure drug abusers are able to access effective treatment options (jail is not an effective treatment option).


Suffolk University Speech

In April of 2010, Governor Johnson spoke to the Suffolk University NORML. He speaks about the policies of other countries, and their results. He notes the number of people in US jails for nonviolent drug crimes.


Cato Institute Speech

In November of 2010, Governor Johnson gave a speech to the Cato Institute where he spoke about the drug policies of various countries and how they compare to the US.


Ridley Report Interview

In April of 2011, Governor Johnson was interviewed during the Ridley Report Interview. He states during that interview that he smoked marijuana when younger and didn't believe the drug was as dangerous as alcohol.


South Carolina Debate

In May of 2011, Government Johnson was asked about legalizing drugs during the first Presidential debate. He discusses the amount of money that the US spends on drug enforcement and then states that he would legalize marijuana.


Our America Initiative

Governor Johnson started the Our America Initiative in 2011. On that website, he discusses his drug policy and his views that while he does not advocate for people doing drugs, he does not believe it should be illegal.


Real Clear Politics Interview

In June of 2011, Governor Johnson was interviewed by and was asked about his views on drugs.


2012 Presidential Campaign Website Statements


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