BOULDER – With less than eight days to go in the 2012 campaign, Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson made his final swing through the libertarian-leaning Mountain West with stops at college campuses in Idaho and Colorado. At his final rally of the day at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Johnson tied together the drug war and immigration policy, two highly charged issues here, before a crowd composed mostly of college students.
"So much of the attitude on the border has to do with border violence and border violence is a prohibition phenomenon. Ninety percent of the drug problem is prohibition-related not use-related, that's not to discount the problems with use and abuse, but that should be the focus. We have 40,000 deaths south of the border over the last four years and these are disputes that are being played out with guns rather with the courts. Didn't we learn anything when it came to the prohibition of alcohol?"
Earlier this year Johnson endorsed the Colorado ballot question that would legalize marijuana, Amendment 64. "Colorado has the opportunity to change worldwide drug policy by voting yes for (Amendment) 64," Johnson said.
"I go around the country telling people, 'Coloradans get it,'" he said.
Recent polls show the initiative has a chance of passing.
"How's this going to work when it comes to the other states? Colorado being the first domino that falls, Colorado being the first domino that 49 other states follow and bring about rational drug policy? When everybody goes on an airplane to go to Denver for the weekend to chill out, that's how it's going to work," he said.
Johnson also spoke about immigration while in Denver, a topic he's seldom addressed on the trail.
"Building a fence across the border would be an incredible waste of time and money. We should make it as easy as possible for somebody that wants to come into this country and work to get a work visa. Not a green card, not citizenship, but a work visa. I maintain that immigrants would stand in line if the line was moving to get a work visa," Johnson said, prompting rousing applause from the over 500 people in attendance.
Johnson, a former two-term governor of a border state, has not made immigration policy a major part of his campaign and has instead focused on foreign policy, ending the drug war, and fiscal issues.
"The reason we have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country is you can't get a work visa and come into this country and work and yet everyone who wants to come in this country and work recognizes that if they can get across the border, even illegal, there will be a job there waiting for them and that's the reason we have 11 million illegal immigrants in this country right now," Johnson said. "We don't want to be breaking up families."
Johnson did not touch on Hurricane Sandy during his speech, but it did impact his day as he was late for his event in Boise that afternoon. In a scrum with reporters after the event Johnson said that he thinks the Federal Emergency Management Agency is an appropriate function for the federal government.
"I do see a role. The whole notion that we do have difficulties. I just want to do all of this in the context of not spending more money than we're taking in," he said.
"I think (disaster relief) may come under the basic notion of the government protecting us. There are these natural catastrophies that without the federal government, states aren't as well equipped," Johnson said, pointing to government assistance New Mexico received in response to the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000. Johnson did note, however, that the National Park Service started that same fire as a controlled burn.
"It was federally caused, it was federally lit," he said.