Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate in the 2016 presidential election, is famous for his across-the-aisle approach to politics. Incorporating both republican and democratic positions as a part of his platform, Johnson hopes to appeal to both the young and old who feel that the two-party system of American politics has left them disenfranchised. The libertarian ideology puts individual freedoms first, and this is concept is clearly echoed in Johnson’s ideas about drug use and regulation in the United States.
“Why do we tell adults what they can put into their bodies? Imagine the disgust of the Founding Fathers if they were to learn that the government has decided it is appropriate to tell adults what they can put in their bodies – and even put them in jail for using marijuana, while allowing those same adults to consume alcohol and encouraging the medical profession to pump out addictive, deadly painkillers at will.”
Johnson firmly believes that government should be extremely limited, to the point that the government should not play a role in the legality of illicit substances. He has also repeatedly spoken out against the over-prescriptions of painkillers like opioids in the medical field. With his push towards legalization, specifically of marijuana, Johnson hopes to cut costs in the federal budget while opening doors for American citizens, literally.
“I came at this issue from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint. I’m not telling you anything that you don’t recognize. Half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts and prisons is drug-related and to what end? Well, $70 billion a year. We’re arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country. We now have 2.3 million people behind bars. We have the highest incarceration rate of any person in the world, America.”
Johnson’s libertarian-aligned perspective is apparent here, as he makes it clear that in his opinion, government overspending and overreaching are drastically impacting our budget and our culture. America currently has the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world, and Johnson hopes to alleviate this with new legislation that would legalize drugs. His policies would not only legalize certain drugs, but also reduce the sentences of those convicted for the selling or use of drugs.
“For drug addicts, we should look at all the tools in the box. One of the ideas I proposed is that methadone should be available from drugstores, not just from clinics. One of the criticisms of methadone clinics is their clientele. Why don’t we just allow people to go to drugstores and get their methadone with a prescription? Heroin maintenance is another idea I proposed. It’s a harm-reduction strategy. Instead of pretending that drugs are going to go away, we should do everything we can to minimize the negative impact of drugs.”
Johnson has, since 2001, famously proposed that both methadone and heroin should not only be legal, but also available from local pharmacies and drug stores. While this proposal has been met with harsh criticisms from many different sources, Johnson argues that by legalizing these drugs, illicit use can be curbed, and harm caused by the drugs will be drastically minimized.
Johnson, like both Stein and Clinton, views drug regulation progressively, but for different reasons. While Clinton and Stein both view regulating drugs as a public health issue, Johnson views it as a cost-benefit issue as well. Johnson’s libertarian perspective drives his opinion that the government should not regulate drug use, and that personal freedom trumps any perceived government overreaching.
Interview with David Sheff in Playboy Magazine , Jan 1, 2001
Sean Hannity 2012 presidential interviews “Hannity Primary”, May 27, 2011
2016 presidential campaign website GaryJohnson2016.com, Jan 11, 2016