Mr. Johnson also is one of the country’s foremost spokesmen for legalizing marijuana and acknowledged using it and other, harder drugs. He said he thinks the country should legalize all drugs, but as president he would push first for marijuana legalization.
This week he released a Web video trying to tap into the marijuana legalization movement. The video includes a photo of President Obama smoking a joint when he was younger.
“I’m saying to Obama, ‘Look, man, you smoked it. You smoked it and you didn’t go to jail.’ That’s not fair,” he told The Times.
Mr. Johnson made his money by founding and running Big J Enterprises, a contracting business he built up to employ hundreds of workers. His net worth last year reportedly was about $6 million.
He told The Times he has suffered losses in recent years, which is why he won’t release his tax returns.
Mr. Obama has released his returns. Mr. Romney has released his 2010 return and an estimate of taxes paid in 2011 but has declined to release returns from prior years.
Federal law requires candidates to fill out a broad estimate of their net worth, but they are not required to release their returns.
Mr. Romney’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Johnson said if he can raise the money, he would like to run ads on cable TV in states where he thinks he has the best chance of winning votes: New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana and Alaska.
As of June 30, his campaign had raised $1 million, had just $5,219 cash on hand and had debts totaling $431,722. The Federal Election Commission has deemed him eligible for federal matching funds, and he had collected $130,000 as of last month.
Mr. Johnson said he has felt like a Libertarian since the party’s founding in 1971 but hasn’t voted that way. In fact, he voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and for Sen. Bob Dole before that. In 2008, he voted for Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin.
He said that having been a governor for two full terms, he has more executive experience than Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama combined and that his record of vetoing spending should make him attractive even to supporters of Rep. Ron Paul, who vociferously backed their hero in the GOP primaries.
“There’s no difference in the message,” Mr. Johnson said. “And I’m making the pitch that I have a resume to suggest that maybe I’ll be more effective than Dr. Paul. And that’s not to discount anything from Dr. Paul at all. It’s just — it’s not a compromise vote.”
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