Oft-shirtless Lincoln car pitchman and Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey hasn’t declared he’s running for governor of Texas, but it might be a lot cooler if he did.
Early polling shows he has a lead over incumbent governor Greg Abott with prospective voters, by a margin that appears close to an average OU victory in the Red River Showdown. True, he hasn’t declared he’s running, which party he’d run with, or articulated any policy platform. But to borrow the slogan from humorist Kinky Friedman’s two failed gubernatorial runs, this hasn’t stopped many Texans from asking “why the hell not?”
If McConaughey were to win this largely ceremonial post, what could it mean for cannabis legalization in the largest state that still hasn’t gotten the memo on weed reform? McConaughey would likely face some opposition, including from Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. (The lieutenant governor is a more powerful office than governor in Texas.) But according to Jax Finkel, the Executive Director of NORML Texas, there may be reason for optimism.
“Texas NORML creates a voter guide every election cycle. We track legislators’ voting records and they fill out our survey. We think there is strong support for varying levels of change. While I do not know what Mr McConaughey’s exact policy position is, I am sure we would find alignment on advancing reform.”
In the meantime, for all those between the Rio Grande and the Canadian who love to get high and not get arrested, we put together a list of reasons to be hopeful.
1. McConaughey himself has been arrested for weed possession
One night a little over two decades ago, the west Austin neighborhood of Tarrytown became the scene of intrigue and a true crime saga like no other. On the night of October 25, 1999, police were called to McConaughey’s house and found the actor stoned, playing congas and very naked.
McConnaughey said one “roided-up cop with a crew cut” was being aggressive and rude, and that “f**k yeah, I resisted” arrest. He also stated that he refused to get dressed and was booked on resisting arrest and possession of marijuana.
The charge was later changed to a sound ordinance violation and a $50 citation, and McConnaughey would within two years star with Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner.
The arrest doesn’t quite make McConaughey a classic victim of the drug war, but he clearly knows what it’s like to be enjoying cannabis naked in the privacy of your own home, only to have to go to jail on a weed charge.
2. It seems like he enjoys getting high and driving/talking to himself
In 2015, Lincoln released a series of advertisements featuring McConaughey driving alone on a lonely stretch of highway, talking to himself about the car he’s driving. In one of the more indica-inspired clips, he sits alone in a dark cafe at night, sipping coffee in the rain. In another, he is against a barren highway, now without his blazer, as a longhorn steer blocks the road ahead of him. “I think that’s ol’ Cyrus,” he (McConaughey, not the bull) says, before thanking the bull and…doing a u-turn.
What can we make of these ads? Not a whole lot, except that he is comfortable making videos in which he would clearly not pass a roadside cannabis sobriety test.
3. He ‘accidentally”’got high with Snoop Dogg
While filming “Beach Bum” with Snoop Dogg, McConaughey reportedly got high “accidentally,” after the rapper switched out the “fake joints” they used for filming with some real ones.
Snoop stated that McConnaughey “rapped for 13 hours straight” after smoking, though that could have possibly just been a new Lincoln ad.
“It was one of those highs where I didn’t catch my breath until 5:30pm the next day,” McConaughey said, which would typically be fatal.
4. He’s played a lot of stoners on film
Since his breakout role as city employee, statutory rapist, and pothead Wooderson in 1993’s “Dazed and Confused,” McConaughey has not shied from playing weedheads. In fact, during the filming of his breakout role, he was reportedly “high as a kite” when he crafted his very “Texas stoner guy” catchphrase “all right, all right, all right.”
Most recently, in Guy Ritchie’s 2020 film “The Gentlemen,” McConaughey plays a London-based marijuana kingpin, someone who in all likelihood would prefer cannabis remain illegal.
He also played a cartoon koala in “Sing,” so there is only so much emphasis we should place on his acting choices, though they could signal he’s at least a fan of the culture.
5. Proximity to Woody Harrelson
Fellow Texas actor, halfway outlaw and cannabis evangelist Woody Harrelson starred alongside the future governor in the first season of “True Detective,” which was seen as instrumental in sparking the “McConaissance,” in the “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” actor’s career.
The two also starred together in “EDtv” and “Surfer, Dude,” and are “true friends” according to McConaughey. And while Woody said in 2017 that he gave up weed after “30 solid years” of partying, McConaughey certainly spent a lot of time with him in the years prior.
For now, still too early to say
To quote Detective Rust Cohle on True Detective “time is a flat circle, everything we’ve ever done, or will do we’re gonna do over and over again.” For Texas state politics that likely means electing Republicans to statewide office as long as they have a pulse and an R by their name — and the pulse is optional. Still, in America — and Texas — it’s hard to beat the power of celebrity, much less a local Uvalde boy who made it big and has universal name recognition in the state.
In the meantime, there’s no reason to believe that he’s all bong and no weed when it comes to legalization.