News Story

Former N.M. Gov. Gary Johnson Explores Presidential Run

Gary Johnson
Former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson sat in a Lansing coffee shop talking about one of the many ways he would fix the United States if elected president.

The former New Mexico governor pointed to the Social Security payments for retirees that were started in 1935. Johnson said back then, payments were scheduled to begin at an age (65) most people weren't expected to ever reach. Life expectancy was an average of 61.7 years for men and women in 1935.

Now, people are living much longer than 65, and the government can't afford the program. Raising the eligibility of full benefits is just one of the must-do fixes the nation must accept if it wants to get away from borrowing 43 cents for every dollar it spends, said Johnson, who is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012.

Johnson was in Michigan last week to promote "Our America — The Gary Johnson Initiative." It's a public advocacy committee that states its goals are promoting civil liberties, free enterprise, limited government and "traditional American values."

But not all of Johnson's views would be considered "traditional."

He wants to legalize marijuana and "control it, regulate it and tax it."

"Bottom line — people smoke marijuana for the same reasons as people drink alcohol," Johnson said.

It's insane, Johnson says, that 900,000 people are arrested every year in this country for crimes involving marijuana.

"We have made felons of tens of millions of Americans who, were it not for our drug laws, would be law-abiding, taxpaying citizens," he said.

Johnson said he had no luck making pot legal as New Mexico's governor from 1995 to 2003.

"When it comes to elected officials, it (marijuana) is the number one boogeyman out there."

Johnson said he stopped smoking pot in the mid-1970s when "I came to the realization it was a handicap."

But Johnson's keys for an American recovery revolve around more mainstream ideas — such as cutting Medicaid and Medicare and defense spending.

Johnson says he would pull the U.S. military out of Iraq and Afghanistan "as soon as possible."

The U.S. is responsible for protecting its borders and acting against any aggressor that "raises arms against us." He said Iraq and Afghanistan don't meet that standard.

"We are in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, who we supported against Russia. Now, they are bad?" Johnson said. "C'mon. They are going to be around after we are gone."