Marijuana: Ex-guv thinks Regulate act could bring down global pot prohibition
When backers of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act turned in 12,000-plus signatures Friday to cure a 2,407 signature shortfall toward qualifying for the November ballot, a special guest was on hand: Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico.
Johnson thinks the Regulate measure could be the beginning of the end of pot prohibition in the U.S. and across the planet.
Johnson was elected governor as a Republican, but "I've quit the party," he says. He's now a presidential candidate for the Libertarian ticket. But he made time in his schedule to support the Regulate act, which he sees as being of potentially historic significance.
"Colorado has the opportunity to change drug policy worldwide," he says. "I really think this is the domino that brings an end to marijuana prohibition."
How so? "U.S. drug policy rules the world -- and I think there's a corollary between alcohol prohibition and marijuana prohibition. It's my understanding that one of the things that helped bring alcohol prohibition to an end was New York saying, 'We're not going to enforce federal prohibition laws anymore. Federal government, if you want to do that, go ahead. But we're not going to.' And the federal government didn't have the resources to begin to do that, and that really helped end alcohol prohibition."
A photo from the July 2011 press conference to announce the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.
Granted, the effect was far from immediate. New York governor Alfred E. Smith signed this measure in 1923, but the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which formally nixed prohibition, wasn't approved until late 1933 -- a full decade later. Still, New York's action was a major marker on the road to repeal, and Johnson thinks the Regulate act could play the same role. In his words, "This could be a real game-changer worldwide."
Johnson stops short of guaranteeing victory for the initiative, which still must be officially approved for the ballot by the Colorado Secretary of State's office. But he sees momentum moving in its direction.
"It's inevitable," he maintains. "When I came out in support of legalizing marijuana in 1999, 35 percent of Americans supported legalizing it -- maybe even less. Then, three months ago, Gallup did a poll that showed 50 percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana. And this is the first time it's been a fifty-fifty debate."
Click to continue reading our interview with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.