Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) sat down for the first time on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show Friday night and the host was quick to bring up the struggling Republican presidential candidate’s anti-marijuana position in light of his state’s rejection of a referendum this past week that would have legalized the drug for both medical and recreational use.
"We have a huge drug crisis in this country," Kasich at the top of the discussion, to which Colbert shot back, "Is that really pot, the drug crisis? Lots of people are going to jail for minor infractions, and it ruins their entire life."
Kasich rejected the notion that a drug conviction could ruin someone’s life in Ohio, citing his state’s relatively forgiving laws that allow for fines over prison sentences for minor drug infractions. But then, he doubled down on the dangers of pot.
"The problem with marijuana is this: We don't want to tell our kids, 'Don't do drugs, but by the way, this drug's OK,’” Kasich said.
"Isn't that what alcohol is?" Colbert asked, prompting loud applause from an audience that was solidly on his side of the argument.
The Late Show host scored his biggest points against the governor by asking him if he ever smoked marijuana when he was young. When Kasich answered affirmatively, he asked if the governor was ever caught by police.
“No, I never was,” Kasich replied with an unnecessarily hearty laugh.
“If you had been caught smoking marijuana and had it on your record, would you be the governor of Ohio right now?” Colbert asked.
“Maybe,” Kasich said after a short pause, “if I got you to come out and campaign for me.”
If that was meant as a joke, Colbert wasn’t laughing. “It ruins a life to have that police record, because you can’t get a job,” he said.
“I don’t want to ruin anybody’s life,” Kasich insisted, shifting gears to explain that he’s far more open-minded about medical marijuana.
Another former pot smoker who fought against legalization in his home state is Jeb Bush, who successfully urged Florida voters to reject a ballot measure that would have opened the door for medical marijuana in 2014. That move drew accusations of “hypocrisy” from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) earlier this year.