Please Applaud This Kansas Teen Using Cannabis Legalization to Run for Governor

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Listen. It’s been a rough few days. There are bad things happening in America, mostly (OK, pretty much entirely!) on one side, the side that likes to march around at night with torches and deny the personhood of millions of people, the side that has copies of The Turner Diaries strategically scattered around the house.

So! Let’s talk about Jack Bergeson, the adorably ambitious and entirely positive teenager from Kansas, who’s running for governor—on a platform that includes raising the minimum wage, higher salaries for teachers, no tax increases on families making less than $60,000 a year—and, the reason why we’re here, marijuana legalization.

As the Kansas City Star and other outlets have reported, Jack Bergeson is 16 years old and lives in Wichita, Kansas, where he’s a junior in high school and works part-time in his family’s restaurant. (Fizz Burgers and Bottles, at 7718 E. 37th Street N. The next time we’re in Wichita, we’re stopping in for a meal.)

He can’t vote or buy cannabis in nearby Colorado (or cigarettes, or a lottery ticket, or many other things reserved for adults), but under Kansas election law, he can run for office. So he went ahead and filed papers to do just that.

Bergeson’s political heroes are a varied array, including Bernie Sanders, Ross Perot, Jessie “The Body” Venture and former president and U.S. military hero Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also wants to revolutionize the country’s broken healthcare system—we’re down—and “fully legalize” medical cannabis.

As for outright legalization? Whoa, there. Bergeson is tepid, but “willing to explore” the issue.

From the Star:

I thought, you know, let’s give the people of Kansas a chance,” Bergeson said. “Let’s try something new that has never really been tried anywhere else before.”

Bergeson described his run for the Democratic nomination as an “anti-establishment” campaign that would focus on bringing “a clean slate.”

Since it’s Kansas, one of the 35 and counting states where the Republican Party has the governor’s office, Bergeson is a bit more center-right on sacred cows, like gun ownership. He supports open carry—which, hey! It’s Kansas. Tackle that thorny issue later.

As the Star noted, Bergeson has a running mate—his 17-year-old classmate, Alexander Cline, who’s vying for the position of lieutenant governor in the Bergeson administration. Cline has at least one major political advantage, albeit a personal one: Since he’ll be 18 in the next election, he’ll be able to participate in the democratic process and cast a vote.

A political scientist contacted by the Star noted that the candidacy shouldn’t be immediately dismissed as a joke.

Since young people famously can’t be bothered to vote, having a young person running for office could be an engagement tool—perhaps even a more effective one than old centrist Democrats trying hard to appear woke and bae on social media.

And it’s working!

As noted, Bergeson has already landed major media interviews: Last week, a smiling Jack Bergeson was interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel from his campaign headquarters—that is, his bedroom.

“Politics is kind of degenerating in our country,” he told Kimmel. “We need the younger generation to get involved in order to fix that.”

Kansas’s current governor is the two-term incumbent Sam Brownback, a staunch religious conservative who has angered both Republicans and Democrats with a scorched-earth approach toward cutting spending and taxes. He’s also proven willing to sacrifice his people for political gain, as he did when rejecting the Obamacare-gifted expansion of Medicaid in his state.

All this to say that almost any teenager, even a deplorable Instagram-addicted miscreant, might be an improvement. But Jack Bergeson is an earnest and adorable teen, and so has High Times’ endorsement.

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