Capitol Alert

Libertarian Gary Johnson says he backs California pot legalization

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson said late Wednesday that he supports the initiative on California’s fall ballot to legalize recreational marijuana.

“Why do I support it?” Johnson, a longtime backer of decriminalizing marijuana, asked about Proposition 64 while leaving Quicken Loans Arena, site of the Republican National Convention. The initiative is supported by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and billionaire entrepreneur Sean Parker.

“Whether you agree with marijuana legalization or not, you have friends, family, coworkers that use marijuana,” the former New Mexico governor said. “Are they criminal? No, they’re not criminal.”

Johnson previously said that California “holds the key” to ending prohibition, but did not explicitly offer his support for the measure.

“I do believe that California is going to vote to legalize marijuana recreationally, and I do see this as the absolute tipping point,” Johnson said in conversation with POLITICO at the Lincoln Initiative Reboot2016 conference last month in San Francisco. “I think when California does it in November, you will have 20 state legislatures, overnight, legislate it.”

On Wednesday, Johnson said he received several invitations to appear at the convention, but was “trying to keep a low profile.” He declined to comment about the drama taking place inside, which included Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s decision not to endorse Donald Trump.

“I really want to be respectful while I am here,” Johnson said, “and give Donald Trump his due for getting the nomination.”

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago