In Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto, the former Minnesota governor piledrives the issue of weed's long prohibition in America.
Today, Ventura will be discussing the book and signing copies of his legalization tract, during a 4:00 p.m. appearance at the Roseville Barnes & Noble outlet. Ventura spoke with City Pages for a wide-ranging discussion including things addressed in his book and not. He graciously answered what might have been some of the dumbest questions he's ever faced.
City Pages: What’s your deal with weed?
Jesse Ventura: I’ll tell you. I’m 65 now and at this age you have to limit what you focus on. The things you want to accomplish because your window of opportunity is closing. Since I’m probably not going to be involved politically anymore per se, I’m not seeking any office at all, I’ve got to focus on the issues that are most important. For me, I’d like to see marijuana legalized completely across the United States of America.
CP: Why do you think listing marijuana as a schedule 1 controlled substance is such a buzzkill?
JV: For me, marijuana has given me my quality of life back. And I’ll explain why it shouldn’t be classified that way with a personal story. Without violating anyone’s privacy here -- it didn’t affect me directly, I wasn’t sick -- but someone extremely close to me developed a seizure disorder and was seizing up to three or four times a week. This was something I was dealing with on a daily basis. Now I can’t imagine what it’s like to have the seizures. But I can tell you dealing with seizures is not fun. It gives you a feeling of hopelessness.
No one had any real answers. This person went on four prescription medications; none of them worked. All of them had horrible side effects, and the seizures continued. We took the person to Colorado after a time for medicinal marijuana treatments. It was three drops under the tongue, a few times a day. This medication does not get you high in any way, shape, or form.
And the seizures stopped. And I can happily say today this person can now get it in Minnesota. But it’s an outrage what’s going on here. What costs $30 in Colorado costs $600 here. Anyway, does that sound like a drug with no medical purpose, like it’s been scheduled? Marijuana saved this person's quality of life.
And yet the government treats marijuana with the same schedule as heroin. Tell me that’s not ridiculous. The government has been lying to us about weed for a long time.
CP: What’s the conspiracy? You have my rapt attention.
JV: Americans don’t realize this because they’ve been lied to in our history books, but marijuana was the driving force of our original economy. It was everywhere. We traded it with the Britons like it was cash. Our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, even Betsy Ross’s flag are made out of it. And, as I’ve stated in other interviews, if George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were alive today they’d be raided by the DEA, they’d be prosecuted and sent to prison for being major drug dealers.
Because that was their major cash crop that they grew and harvested and sold. Washington wrote about it in his diary. He talks about screwing up and cross-pollinating his plants, effectively making them hemp. So they knew about the euphoric quality as well.
CP: Talk to me about what legal weed would be like in Minnesota.
JV: When I was in office I tried to get hemp legalized in Minnesota but I couldn’t get anyone to carry the bill. I tried. It went nowhere. It’s ridiculous. It’s an economy waiting to happen. How many people work in the tobacco and alcohol industries? Do you have any idea?
CP: Is that a rhetorical question? I don’t know. A lot?
JV: Hundreds of thousands. I bet millions of people earn their living around alcohol. The proof is in the pudding. Colorado had 300 million [dollars] to spend on their schools this year. That’s marijuana money. Washington had a 15 percent drop in their judicial system [spending] state-wide. And I can tell you as a governor, that is mammoth. You’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s insane. We’re missing that in Minnesota. Does it make sense that I’m angry? My focus is that before I die I want to see marijuana legal in all of the United States. Not just here.
CP: I think I agree with you on most all these points you’re making, but I feel like you might be ignoring the devastating impact this drug can have on a person’s judgement. For instance, my friend Tony smokes a lot of weed and a few years ago he told me that I had to see this Transformers movie. He said it was a great movie. But then I saw it and it was total fucking garbage.
JV: Well in his eyes it wasn’t. So what?
CP: I just don’t think we should have a nation full of Tonys.
JV: Did he harm anyone having a different opinion than you? So what? You’ve got alcohol legal. Let’s be honest and treat this like you would tobacco and alcohol. My god, marijuana’s never killed nobody. Nobody. Alcohol can kill you. I throw this same argument back at you. I could say, hey I went to a party a few weeks ago and a guy binge drank and drank so much alcohol he died. What’s worse? Your buddy not having the same opinion as you on a stupid movie or binge drinking where you can end up dead?
CP: What do you think our country should do with the tax money generated by marijuana, should it ever become legal?
JV: Look, this isn’t an issue where the government should be our parents. We tell the government what to do. That’s how the system is designed to operate. There’s a lot of money to be raised. You realize it’s ridiculous. This money won’t come from the feds. They make money on marijuana being illegal. Politicians should be the voice here.
Look at what we have. You’ve got Hillary Clinton taking the usual politician chickenshit way out. She says, “Well, we need more studies.” No we don’t. We’ve got decades of research. You think our government has our best interest in mind? You better think again.
CP: Again though, what should we do with the tax windfall that would come from legalized marijuana?
JV: I don’t care what you do with it. Over here, thinking about our state and how we spend our taxes, you could build stadiums with it. I think…
CP: What about installing Frisbee golf courses in our national parks? That’d be dope.
JV: Come on. Seriously. We could have built the Vikings stadium with it. Instead of taxing the public.
CP: What if there were, like, an urban zip-line system? Like we could get around on zip-lines.
JV: I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I’d think about this with the example of the Vikings stadium. When I was in office, I had a bill that would have solved this. I was looking at legalized sports betting. That’s a $3 billion-a-year industry we’re collecting nothing on. We could have generated the $300 million a year, paid for the stadium in three or four years, still had money coming in.
It’s going on anyway, it’s just that we’re not collecting on it. Legalize it. You see how this argument reflects legalized marijuana? What we could do with all that money? We need to mature as a nation and start treating things in an adult manner. When there’s an industry out there operating already you might as well legalize it and regulate it instead of allowing the criminals to run things.
CP: Is it difficult to do this kind of press while blazed?
CP: Is it difficult to do all the press you’re doing for this book while at the same time being stoned?
JV: I don’t know. Why would you ask me that? My response is that I wouldn’t know.
CP: Let’s move on. Hypothetically, if you were president, how would you put defense spending in a rear naked chokehold?
JV: I would cut defense spending drastically. It’s so ridiculous. If you look at all of the top 25 countries in the world by GDP, we spend more than all of them combined on defense. And 24 of them are allegedly our allies. I’m still trying to figure out why we spend all this money. For what? What are we afraid of? That ISIS is going to come get us? If we got out of the Middle East, ISIS wouldn’t give a shit about us.
You know what you need to do, my friend? You need to read the book War Is a Racket. It should be required reading.
CP: Which strain of weed do you think is most conducive to getting college students to believe 9/11 was an inside job?
JV: I don’t think marijuana has anything to do with that. I think being intelligent and reading facts allows people to form their own opinions. Look, there was a study done in England that says conspiracy theorists are more intelligent than the people who just accept what they’re fed. Because they don’t take information at face value. They will do the research.
They will educate themselves. So I think it’s an insult to say marijuana would have anything to do with college students investigating 9/11 or any other theory on their own. I’m not satisfied with the answers I’ve been given. Has nothing to do with marijuana. Look, if college students are smoking pot and it allows them to question the answers they’ve been given, maybe it’s good. Maybe they ought to be on it.
CP: When you watch these [presidential] debates do you regret not running yourself?
JV: No. Not at all. And I don’t watch the debates. Why would I? The two-party system created this. As long as the lemmings of the country continue to vote for candidates in a two-party system nothing will change. I can’t watch the debates. There’s nothing these candidates could say that would convince me to vote for them. I don’t vote for Democrats or Republicans. They are the problem, not the solution. I lump them together. It’s a two-party dictatorship. And the elections are fixed. I’m happy to be out of it.
CP: That’s disappointing. So we can’t look forward to you debating Kanye West as the Libertarian candidate in 2020?
JV: Who would be the Libertarian candidate you’re saying?
CP: In this scenario, you would be.
JV: Oh no. I won’t join a political party.
CP: But you are supporting Gary Johnson in this election, correct?
JV: Yeah. I said that I would but who knows. I could end up voting for Dr. [Jill] Stein too, who knows. I just guarantee you this, I won’t be voting for [Donald] Trump or Hillary. And I urge other people not to either.
CP: It’s impressive how politically active you’ve remained since your time in office. With all the work you do the obvious question becomes, will you ever have time to bleed?
JV: Um, yeah. That may happen. I still have other things to deal with you know.
CP: Final question. Imagine with me. It’s 1 a.m. and you’ve just scrounged up around two dollars in change from the center console of your Prius. You’re approaching the drive through at Taco Bell. What are you going to order?
JV: Nothing. I don’t eat fast food. I haven’t since I saw the Morgan Spurlock documentary. I watched his movie Super Size Me and I haven’t eaten fast food since. I won’t do it. And that’s the truth.
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