Johnson believes that the ongoing war on drugs has been a costly failure. A prescription based model, similar to the ones used successfully in Holland and Portugal, should be explored on hard drugs such as heroin. If elected, Johnson has pledged to offer a full pardon for citizens convicted of non-violent marijuana crime.
Johnson is firmly behind the efforts to legalize medical marijuana and rejects the idea that marijuana is a gateway drug. He admits to using recreational drugs while in college in the 1970s, as well as between 2005 and 2007 to help with the pain after a paragliding accident in Hawaii, falling fifty feet to the ground after his sail got tangled in a tree. Johnson: I think marijuana should be legalized. I think 90% of the drug problem today is prohibition related. I think that it’s crazy that half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and the prisons is drug related, about $70 billion a year. I think it’s insane we’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country on drug related crime. And Stephen, when I say legalize marijuana, it’s never gonna be legal to smoke pot, do harm to others. It’s never gonna be legal for kids to smoke pot.
Colbert: Are you high right now?
May 10, 2010: Gary Johnson on The Colbert Report
“Well, I just think as a Republican, for me, serving as Governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost benefit analysis. Everything. And in that context, as Governor of New Mexico, I realize that half, and this is every single state in the country, our country, half of what we spent on law enforcement, the courts and the prison is drug related - about $70 billion a year. And what are we getting for the money we’re spending?
Well, we’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country. I point out that’s the population of New Mexico that gets arrested every single year. And we now have 2.3 million people behind bars in this country. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. I advocate legalizing marijuana. Control it, regulate it, tax it.
It’s never gonna be legal for kids to smoke pot, or buy pot. It’s never gonna be legal for somebody who smoke pot, become impaired, get behind the wheel of a car or do harm to others. We need to recognize that the violence on the border with Mexico, 28,000 deaths south of the border over the last four years, this is drug related, this is money and drugs.
We went through this when we prohibited alcohol. When we prohibited alcohol, Al Capone was the man of the day, right? As opposed to legalizing it, controlling it, taxing it. I think there are now 30 million Americans that have been subject to our criminal justice system that but for our drug laws, would otherwise be tax paying law abiding citizens.”
February 11, 2011: Johnson speaking with CBSNews’ Stephanie Condon
“And then for me as governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost-benefit analysis. There weren't any sacred cows –everything was a cost-benefit analysis. What are we spending money on and what are we getting for the money that we're spending? So in that sense, the drug war is absolutely a failure.”
April 22, 2011: Johnson on ABC News’ Topline
“And I have had a fairly recent experience having broken my back prior to this. In ’99 I broke my back and I used pain killers for about three weeks and it took me, I felt like it took me two months to get off of the pain killers. And by get off, the constipation that was associated with that, the insomnia that went along with that; I couldn’t sleep. And it made me realize that people that use these kinds of prescription pain meds, they use them their entire lives, it has to cut their lives short, it has to. It’s not healthy. And I found that using pain medication kind of masked one pain for another; it just traded the sensation of pain for something that was not right either, it wasn’t right.
So my paragliding accident, I found myself on the floor and I found myself taking pain medication and I have a friend coming over and here’s the diagnosis, here’s what I have to do. “Gary, would you like me to see if I can get you some marijuana?” And, “Yes, that would be great. That would be great. I think that would help me out considerably.” And it did.
As I’m lying there on the floor. And I don’t want to be, I don’t want to say that it was pain but it’s also this notion that I’m on the floor for weeks. I’m on the floor for weeks and how do you deal with that? And I just thought that marijuana really helped me deal with all of that. And then back to no pain- you know I never took any pain medication after that and the whole notion of- it took me three years to recover from that accident. I mean doctors were saying that this was it for me as far as an active lifestyle. And I’m as active as I’ve ever been today. So I feel myself to be fully recovered. I can’t stand in one position for hours on end without having an effect on my vertebrae on my spine but other than that I’m pretty okay.”
June 30, 2011: Johnson in an interview with The 420Times
“As President I believe pardoning those convicted under federal law would encourage the governors of the fifty states to likewise make it possible for a lot of good people to erase the blot of marijuana offenses from their records for state offenses.”
November 3, 2011, Press Release: Gary Johnson to Drug Policy Alliance: Pardon non-violent marijuana offenses — and remove marijuana from schedule I of the controlled substances act