Kinky Friedman, Texas humorist, singer-songwriter and sometime candidate for Texas governor, is on a statewide 32-stop campaign tour for agriculture commissioner with his platform firmly rooted in the Lone Star State legalization of marijuana.
"I want to make this election into a referendum on lifting the prohibition on pot and hemp," he told KHOU, KVUE's sister station, at a meet-and-greet campaign event at the Midtown Bar and Grill in Houston. "People are understanding that this isn't about long-haired hippies smoking dope. This is about the future of Texas."
Friedman supports decriminalization of marijuana as a proposed means of unclogging the court system with non-violent offenders and reducing cartel violence, legalizing medicinal marijuana in Texas, and he actively promotes the cultivation of hemp as a "more productive and less water reliant fiber alternative to cotton."
"It's not a left or right," he said of the debate that led to voter initiatives in Colorado and Washington State. "The question is, is it good for Texas? And the answer is yes."
Attempts by state legislators to lessen marijuana possession penalties and to allow medical marijuana use have repeatedly failed to make it to the floor for a vote in Austin.
"I think particularly after hearing him today I think he's a serious candidate. He has serious ideas," said Houston-area retiree Arthur Forman, who attended Friedman's campaign event. "And I think he's thinking beyond the cannabis issue, which I think is a side issue, although he's right."
"I've done a variety of marijuana cases," said Houston attorney Reshard Alexander. "And it's something that definitely should be legalized at this point. There's no doubt about it."
But the long-time friend of music legend and marijuana enthusiast Willie Nelson says he is not an avid user of pot. He jokes he's a second-hand recipient, but that his primary reason is to keep Texas out in front of what he believes will be a nationwide trend.
"I am not a pot smoker. No absolutely not. And I do smoke with Willie just because it's kind of Texas etiquette," he joked. "You almost have to do it. And don't let Bill O'Reilly or Nancy Grace tell you this is a gateway drug. Everybody knows the gateway drug of Texas is beer."
Early voting begins Feb. 18 for the March 4 primary. Friedman, who usually runs as an independent, is facing Hugh Fitzsimons of San Antonio and Jim Hogan of Cleburn for the Democratic nomination. Republican primary opponents include Sid Miller of Stephenville, Eric Opiela of Karnes City, Joe Cotten of Dallas and Tommy Merritt of Longview.
"I think that conservative people understand the Libertarian view and the Libertarian view here is clear, which is we like freedom. And I want the state to keep its hands out of the womb, its eyeballs out of the bedroom and its paws off our guns," Friedman said.
Now he's asking voters to include marijuana in that same Texas Libertarian mindset.