Gary Johnson isn't a New Mexico medical cannabis card holder.
He doesn't outright say he's a user, but he's broken his back twice. Sometimes, he has to stand for five or six hours at a time while he's out campaigning. The pain can be unbearable after a long day on his feet, he says.
"I thought of getting a card just so that I wouldn't potentially get thrown in jail for possessing a small amount of it or whatever," Johnson tells SFR by phone. "But the cost, and the hoop-jumping that I would have had to have gone through, and then I would have had to be a registered card holder?"
Johnson's Libertarian ticket challenge to Martin Heinrich's Senate seat in the final months before the midterm election is a long shot, but the former governor and presidential candidate says he wouldn't be in the race if didn't think there was a possibility he could serve as a US senator.
Being strong on cannabis counts a lot more for a candidate in 2018 than it did in 1999, when Johnson says he first called for legalizing the plant. In many ways, though, calling yourself a libertarian in 2018 is far different than it was during Johnson's first run for president in 2012.
Back then, people earnestly wore T-shirts promoting the Ron Paul "Revolution," a reference to the Republican presidential candidate who has self-identified as a Libertarian most of his political career. The letters "evol," or love backwards, were emboldened in the slogan, for reasons unclear.
When Ron Paul's official Twitter account tweeted an extremely racist cartoon this past July decrying "cultural marxism," purportedly by mistake, it encapsulated some of the splits within the national Libertarian party over the last decade, which once held under its large umbrella the likes of Alt-Right organizer Richard Spencer and "Crying Nazi" Christopher Cantwell of Charlottesville fame.
But at least in New Mexico, libertarianism is still closely associated with cannabis and drug liberalization, whose popularity has only grown the last couple of decades.
"My position's been unchanged," Johnson says, but for broader society there has been "an evolution in understanding the medical side of this. De-scheduling [cannabis] as a Class I narcotic would allow for research and development that needs to go along with marijuana product."
That evolution is happening in real time: Just today, the House Judiciary Committee approved legislation for federally-approved research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana. The Medical Cannabis Research Act of 2018, introduced by a Republican from Florida, would increase the number of research cannabis manufacturers operating under federal approval.
It would also create a pathway for state-approved cannabis cultivators to grow for research purposes, and allows medical professionals working in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs “to inform their patients about cannabis trials, receive information about ongoing research, and take part in such research,” according to a press release from the National Cannabis Industry Association.
On Saturday, all candidates on the Libertarian ticket in New Mexico plan to appear at an event in Albuquerque hosted by the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advocate Alliance to center the needs of veterans in the state. Johnson will be the event's headline speaker.
The clearest bridge between the advocate alliance and the Libertarian Party of New Mexico is Ginger Grider. In just a few years, Grider went from calling the police on her own pot-smoking teenage daughter to vice president of the alliance and the state's Libertarian candidate for secretary of state.
Grider says the two strands of Libertarianism and cannabis advocacy entwined for her in 2016.
"I got involved in [Johnson's presidential campaign], and I ended up being the number one phone banker for Gary in the nation, and I was hooked, line and sinker," she explains. "My husband got involved in medical cannabis advocacy and was begging me to get involved."
Eventually, Girder relented, and the rest is history.
At the event, Johnson expects "to touch base with a lot of people [and] sing kumbaya." He'll belt out some of his greatest hits, including the call for removal of cannabis from its federal Schedule I status, pushing for legalization legislation, and advocating a nationwide pardoning process for people with criminal records associated with non-violent cannabis crimes.
He might also offer insight into what an ideal cannabis market would look like.
“Right now, perhaps this [cannabis] industry is the best example of crony capitalism across the country,” Johnson says. “They pass a law and then politically hand out those licenses. Don’t be blind to that at all. That’s what happens.”
If that isn't enough to entice you to the Saturday event, there will be an open bar and a ton of food.
2 pm Saturday Sept. 15. Free. Crowne Plaza Hotel, 1901 University Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, 505-884-2500.