When Jimmy McMillan of the Rent is 2 Damn High party isn’t on the campaign trail, he spends his time visiting, among other places, a SoHo bong shop.
Under the condition of anonymity, a friend of this reporter sent Think a picture that he took with McMillan as the New York City politician/rapper was exiting a store that had several glass bongs on prominent display in their front window.
When we got hold of the photo, our first instinctive reaction was to get a comment from Mr. McMillan himself. We were prepared to call the phone number listed “party headquarters” and bounce around various extensions until we got what we needed, as per usual. Instead, Jimmy himself picked up (we’re now convinced “party HQ” is the pocket that carries his cell phone), and treated us to much more than a simple “yeah, it was me.”
McMillan’s position on marijuana is no secret: he voiced his support for legalization at the New York Gubernatorial debate last October. But his candor about his use of the narcotic was surprising, to say the least.
“I’ve been drinking marijuana as a tea for 40 years,” McMillan casually told Think in a Wednesday afternoon interview.
“Marijuana is no big deal. Some folks, 70 years old, still smoke pot.”
As do the nation’s only protected class of pot smokers, says McMillan.
“Rastafarians can smoke weed, its in the constitution, he informed us. “They are allowed under the law to smoke marijuana.”
(Lawsuits arguing for religious exemptions to existing drug laws have indeed been pursued, but the US Court of Appeals has not yet bought the argument. And we can’t quite seem to locate where the founding fathers added Rastafarianism to the US constitution either.)
Still, McMillan was forceful in his defense of marijuana use.
“Leave me the hell alone, I am an adult,” he said, directed more towards the authorities than us. “If I want it, you have no right to tell me I can”t have it.”
McMillan has become something of a cultural phenomenon in the months since his breakout performance at the New York Gubernatorial Debate. He stole the show with his signature anthem “the rent is too damn high” (he even got Governor Andrew Cuomo to join in), and his controversial views on poverty, the rent control board, and marrying footwear.
McMillan attributed his success at the debate to one finely honed skill, mastered, he says, in the city’s libraries: “I used a technique called verbal judo on stage,” the karate expert told us.
It must have worked, because two weeks ago he declared he would be running for President in 2012, though not with his own Rent is 2 Damn High Party.
“I’m a registered Republican now,” he said.
For those wondering what such an administration would look like, he offered some insight into a McMillan presidency.
“I’d veto every damn program that came my way, except for seniors, children and education programs,” he said, surely pleasing his fellow comrades in the Party of No.
It’s unclear how McMillan’s position on legalization will play with Republican primary voters though. And some of his proposals may not play so well outside of college towns and liberal bastions like New York City and San Francisco.
“I made a proposal to open a drug store on the street in New York,” he said. He was not referring to a Duane Reade franchise. The plan, he said, is to eliminate the dangers posed by drug dealers on the streets by providing a safer alternative for people to obtain drugs.
And while legalization needs to be addressed, McMillan says there are greater problems that need to be solved first, including—you guessed it—the soaring cost of rent. For solutions to those problems, McMillan is counting on the young people.
“The young people are not getting involved in the system,” he said.
“Look how old they are!” he said of the 112th Congress, which took office today. “They’re all leaning at a 45 degree angle, and you all let them take over!” His advice? “Maybe you all should smoke a joint, because y’all need to be motivated.”
It’s a hard sell, but one he’s prepared to make directly to the nation’s students.
“What you need to put in your newspaper, put on your website,” he told us, was one simple message: “Invite me to your colleges.”
But if McMillan plans to have any audience at all, students will need to put down that “motivation” and get up off the couch.
Adam Peck contributed to this article.