A brief exchange between myself and Jacob Sullum about something he posted at Reason, led him to write this piece at Forbes, about the history of presidential candidates who endorsed marijuana legalization before Bernie Sanders became widely touted as the “first.”
Examining only their major-party campaigns, Sullum names two candidates who were unambiguously advocates of both state and federal marijuana legalization: Mike Gravel and Gary Johnson, and two who in his estimation came close: Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. But as he also notes, three of those (Gravel, Johnson, and Paul) either previously were, or would go on to be, Libertarian Party candidates.
When Mike Gravel, a Democrat who represented Alaska in the Senate from 1969 to 1981, ran for his party’s 2008 presidential nomination, he argued that marijuana should be treated like alcohol. “There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to go to a liquor store and buy marijuana,” he said during an August 2007 debate. Although he participated in several debates, Gravel never polled above 1%, and he got just 0.14% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary. In March 2008 he announced that he was switching to the Libertarian Party. Last year he became a director of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a marijuana products company.
Cannabis Sativa’s president and CEO, Gary Johnson, happens to be the other major-party presidential candidate who clearly endorsed marijuana legalization years before Sanders. Johnson, who was governor of New Mexico from 1995 through 2002, made headlines by criticizing the war on drugs during his second term, when he unsuccessfully urged legislators to legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize possession of small amounts for recreational use. Johnson went further after launching his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in April 2011. […]
Like Gravel, Johnson switched to the Libertarian Party, winning its 2012 presidential nomination. Johnson received nearly 1% of the popular vote, just a bit less than Ed Clark, the most successful Libertarian presidential candidate, who got 1.1% in 1980.
Read the rest at Forbes.