GOP presidential candidate Gary Johnson told reporters today that he would consider issue “a full presidential pardon” for every non-violent marijuana convicted under current drug laws if elected. Asked by blogger Darren Richardson if he would consider such a move, the libertarian former governor of New Mexico — who called himself “part of the marijuana movement, forever” and has acknowledged using marijuana — said he would, comparing the prohibition on marijuana the prohibition of alcohol:
JOHNSON: Yes. … After prohibition of alcohol was repealed, one of the untold stories was of all the pardons that went out to all those people who had been convicted or were serving jail sentences for trading in alcohol. I think that same phenomenon accompanies legalizing marijuana and what I call rational drug policy, which starts with looking at the drug problem or the drug issue first as a health issue rather a criminal justice issue.
Most offenders are convicted under state drug laws and thus not eligible for Johnson’s scheme, but activists have sought a presidential pardon for some egregious federal convictions.
Perhaps the most startling thing about Johnson’s stance is not the comments themselves, but the fact that only a fringe candidate with less than one percent support in most polls is willing to say them. As Johnson happily noted, a new Gallup poll released this week finds that a full 50 percent of Americans now support marijuana legalization, and not just for medical use. A CNN poll from April, a Pew poll from February, and many other recent polls have similar results, with support for legalization in at least the mid 40s. Meanwhile, support is as high as 62 percent other controversial among Americans under 30 years old. Support for other social policies is often not much higher, yet they garner immense attention while drug policy is largely ignored or taken for granted.
Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) have been perhaps the most mainstream politicians to take up the issue, introducing a bill to allow states to regulate marijuana as they please.