The Teapot Party began two days after Willie Nelson was arrested for marijuana possession in Texas on November 26, 2010.
He sent me an email suggesting the need for an alternative to the Tea Party – the “Teapot” Party. I started the Facebook page and and within 48 hours our nascent movement had 30,000 supporters.
Nelson christened the party with the motto: “We lean a little to the left – tax, it, regulate it, legalize it,” of course referring to marijuana. Several months went by and our numbers grew to 50,000. State and local chapters sprung up like weeds across the nation. A group calling themselves the Teapot Party State Administrators wanted more concrete action and soon divorced themselves from the main Teapot Party.
At this point I asked Nelson for more direction. He wrote back: “The purpose of the Teapot Party is to vote in people who believe the way we do, and vote out the ones who don’t.” With that in mind, we embarked on a campaign to find candidates to support in upcoming elections. Three of our candidates – Doug Linkhart (Denver mayor), Kris Bailey (Austin City Council) and Dana Larson (BC New Democratic Party – have lost their races. We recently endorsed Washington State Rep. Roger Goodman for Congress. We’ve also endorsed Nelson’s longtime friend Gatewood Galbraith (Kentucky governor) and Bill Levin (Indianapolis City Council).
On Tuesday, the Teapot Party announced our biggest endorsement yet – former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for the Republican presidential nomination. This was done with great thought. Johnson has been courting the marijuana-reform establishment ever since he was governor from 1995 to 2003. With his position in favor of legalizing marijuana as an acting governor, Johnson was clearly blazing a new path. Since he left office, and especially during the last year, Johnson has attended and spoken at numerous marijuana events, including the NORML Conference, MPP Gala, Cypress Hill Smokeout, High Times Medical Cannabis Awards, Seattle Hempfest, Portland Hempstalk and the Austin Marijuana March & Rally.
Ten days ago, Johnson was in Texas for the Austin Rally. That night, he attended Nelson’s show in New Braunfels, near San Antonio. I set up a meeting between Johnson and Nelson before the show. I wanted them to get to know each other. If Willie approved of Johnson, we would move ahead and endorse him.
Two days later, I received the following email from Nelson about Johnson: “I think we should endorse him.” I informed Johnson’s campaign and they happily provided an “acceptance” quote from the Governor: “I am truly gratified to have the endorsement of such an iconic entertainer, philanthropist, innovator and champion for individual rights as Willie Nelson. Not only is he a superstar talent, he is a bold advocate for social change. Americans are demanding the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams without interference from a heavy-handed government, and Willie Nelson lends a tremendous voice to those demands.”
Yesterday, both the Teapot Party and Gary Johnson 2012 sent out press releases announcing the endorsement. The media immediately jumped on it, with Politico, Fox and Raw Story leading the coverage. We were on a roll.
But not so fast. I sent the press release and coverage links to Nelson. His response took me by surprise: “My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone. And I think every one should vote their own conscience.”
I wrote back reminding him that he had approved the endorsement.
“I know I said that,” Nelson replied. “But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy but so Is Dennis and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I’m already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot.”
Willie was referring to Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who he supported in 2008 for the Democratic nomination. I defended our choice of Johnson and reminded him that we were only endorsing him for the Republican nomination, which is wide open.
Willie then wrote back: “The Teapot Party is millions of people. It’s not me. I jokingly said after I got out of jail in Texas that there is a Tea Party and there should be a Teapot Party. The difference between us is we follow our own drummer. No one can tell us how to think. If we back someone that’s us telling them how to vote. I’m not qualified. You can say or do anything you like and I will do the same but let’s don’t back a political candidate. Let’s give our opinions and say what we know about everyone but let’s let everyone decide for themselves.”
He sent this quote to Linda Banks at stillisstillmoving.com and she posted it Wednesday morning.
So the cat was out of the bag, so to speak. Willie Nelson has changed his tune. “Where do we go from here?” I asked him.
“I still say that the people have the power to change things and they will if they vote,” Nelson replied. “The Teapot Party started as a joke but it could still be a way for people to speak out about important things. I am not a criminal. The millions of pot smokers in this country are not criminals. We don’t like being treated as such and I for one will stand up for what I believe in and will vote for anyone I choose. You should do the same. We are not ever going to agree on everything and everybody. The best advice I ever got was from my ex father-in-law. He said take my advice and do what you want to. End of story.”
And one more email from Nelson, sort of a postscript: “This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that’s all… The more I get into politics the more I realize that I am a guitar player.”
Over the next few days, Teapot Party coordinators around the country will reassess the party’s direction. Where should we go from here? Let us know.
– Article originally from The Teapot Party Blog.
More from Willie Nelson on Gary Johnson
By Steve Bloom, The Teapot Party
In an email to me, Nelson stated: “If we back someone that’s us telling them how to vote. I’m not qualified. Let’s not back a political candidate. Let’s give our opinions and say what we know about everyone, but let’s let everyone decide for themselves.”
Of course, the media had a field day with the Teapot Party’s “flip-flop” on Gary Johnson. Here are a few of the links: Politico • Toke of the Town • Reason • Drug War Chronicle • Mediaite • Daily Caller.
But one media outlet, The Raw Story, really nailed it with an exclusive interview with the former two-term New Mexico governor/wannabe president. With great humility and a touch of humor, Johnson commented on Nelson’s change of tune:
“I didn’t expect anything going in there. I do think the world of Willie Nelson. I’m a really huge fan but I wasn’t expecting anything. The flip-flop, I assume, has to do with all sorts of reality factors. I’m just guessing here. Willie Nelson aside, I’ve always openly wondered why any celebrity would endorse any political candidate because there’s just no upside to it whatsoever. But in this case he does have the Teapot Party and the Teapot Party’s main issue is legalizing marijuana, so I thought I understood his reasons for endorsing, and welcomed it. I thought that was terrific. But it is what it is, and I think it has brought attention to the issue, and maybe I’ve gotten some attention out of it, so I’m certainly not negatively pulsed by this at all.”
I forwarded this comment to Nelson last night. Here’s his reply:
“This just proves what I thought all along. Gary Johnson is a great American. He will make a great president if elected. And I will support him all the way in the GOP primary. I also support Dennis Kucinich on the Dem side if he decides to run. They are great Americans and I’m proud to support both of them.”
Kucinich is the Ohio Congressman who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008 with Nelson’s support. So it now appears that the Teapot Party will be supporting, if not fully endorsing, both Johnson and Kucinich’s 2012 presidential runs. It’s unclear right now if Kucinich will actually be a candidate this time around.
The media can continue to have fun with the Teapot Party and our changing stands, but the fact is what appeared to be an embarrassing situation earlier this week has repaired itself, thanks to Nelson’s wise considerations. And we’ll take all that publicity, good or bad, right to the voting booths this year and next.
– Article originally from The Teapot Party Blog.