Gary Johnson, Building the “Microsoft of Marijuana”

The legal marijuana industry attracts all kinds: hippies, conservatives, old, young, sick and healthy. But the sight of a former governor in the cannabis community is something new.

Gary JohnsonGary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, has been named president and CEO of Cannabis Sativa Inc., a Nevada company that makes marijuana-infused products.

Johnson served as governor in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He was a Republican at the time. But he later became a Libertarian, and ran for president on the party’s ticket in 2012. He received less than 1 percent of the vote, but it was still a relatively strong showing for a third-party candidate.

The former governor has long opposed the drug war, fighting to decriminalize marijuana while he was in office. He said he and Cannabis Sativa Inc. hope to permanently change the game.

“I don’t know if I’m the Bill Gates of marijuana, but we might be the Microsoft of marijuana,” he said. “The whole country is going to legalize marijuana in 10 years, and then so goes the world.”

The company is already producing cannabis edibles, putting a lozenge on the market in California. Johnson said he has tried it several times.

“It’s very, very pleasant,” he said. “Rather than a go-to-sleep marijuana, it’s a clean-your-house marijuana.”

Cannabis Sativa Inc. is working to build local partnerships to make and sell the lozenges across the country. Pot is legal in two states, Colorado and Washington, while medical weed is allowed in 21 others. More states likely will join each of those lists.

first pot shops in WashingtonThe first retail marijuana in the country went on sale in Colorado Jan. 1, and the industry has grown substantially since then. In Washington, the first pot shops will open July 8.

Two other states, Oregon and Alaska, could vote to legalize recreational pot this year, as could the District of Columbia. Minnesota and New York both recently passed medical marijuana laws, and Florida is likely to join them in November.

Medical cannabis is legal in Nevada, and the state welcomed its first dispensaries last year. But Johnson said his company would be reaching to a much wider customer base.

That may be difficult to do, since every state with legal or medical weed bars outside businesses from taking part. Johnson said he hopes those policies will change. In the meantime, the company uses partnerships with local companies to produce the lozenge, which is infused with a specially bred cannabis strain.

A popular governor, Johnson served two terms and stepped down because he couldn’t seek a third. He was a businessman before entering politics, building a major construction firm that he sold while governor.

About Brian Ellis

With 6 years' experience in business journalism, Brian is the person we turn to for anything related to the business of cannabis. His news coverage spans topics including marijuana business and finance. Brian's work features on, and