FARMINGTON — Matt Dodson remembers the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans he met during the Occupy Wall Street movement in November 2012 in Los Angeles.
Many of them, returning with brain injuries, were prescribed drugs to try to rewire their rattled connections, he said. But to counter the side affects they needed more drugs, or, they told him, alcohol. Some of their friends drank hard, the veterans told Dodson, and some of those friends killed themselves.
But others dropped the drugs, abandoned the alcohol and began smoking marijuana, he said. And it helped.
The 49-year-old candidate for mayor wasn't always political. But meeting those veterans — and being part of the occupation in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Farmington — changed him, he said. Also, he was disappointed in former-president George W. Bush.
On Thursday, he stood outside San Juan College's library wearing a blue hat veterans wear with "NAVY" printed on it and talked with students.
"I find nothing wrong with it," said Marcus Foelker, a student at the college talking about marijuana.
Foelker's friend stood next to him, holding his hand. She and Foelker walked to Dodson's table between classes because they want marijuana legalized.
"Just because some one like me smokes pot," Foelker said, "that labels me as a criminal? I don't think that's fair."
Dodson recounts the experience of his grandson who, he says, was pulled over by police during the Thanksgiving holiday.
"'I smell marijuana,' (the officer said,) and he yanks him out of the car," Dodson told the two. They nodded their heads. "It'll be legal in five years. We just can't get it legal soon enough."
He added that he doesn't smoke pot.
Dodson returned to Farmington from the Occupation fired up, he said. So he ran for the New Mexico state senate almost two years ago and lost to Sen. Bill Sharer, a Farmington Republican. Now he's running for mayor.
"Most politicians lose their first couple of elections, so hopefully I can win one soon," Dodson said. "Hopefully. I shouldn't say hopefully. I want to win this one now."
Aside from trying to legalize marijuana, he wants to raise the minimum wage to $10.50, create more jobs, encourage solar power, give local businesses preference for city work, stop predatory lending and predatory interest rates, quit privatizing the city's functions, begin publicly funding elections, and install fiber optics in every home in the city.
Also, he said, he wants corruption in Farmington to end.
Oil money, he said, seated many of the city's powerful about 50 years ago when their families invested in the industry. It takes money to get money, he said, and people without it struggle. Those rich families cycle that money among themselves to benefit only themselves, and, he said they do that with private money but also with tax dollars.
Good ol' boys, he called them.
Take the embezzlement of nearly half a million dollars from the Farmington Chamber and Visitors Bureau, he said. That was tax money, and look who got that money, he said.
If Mayor Tommy Roberts doesn't want to spend more tax dollars attempting to track the missing money, why doesn't the bureau release all its documents related to the embezzlement today and let The Daily Times conduct the investigation, Dodson said. He said that would save money.
Inequality and corruption in Farmington — and nationally — is why he stuck a "99 percent" sticker on his PT Cruiser.
He paused to speak with a passing student about solar panels, privatization and corruption.
"Other people talk about the good ol' boys and corruption," he said of Farmington. "I'm not the one coming up with it."
Many residents, he said, have approached him listing instances of corruption. And he hopes, through his campaign, he can get those residents and others involved in politics.
Unfortunately, much of the nation's youth are disinterested, he said. To engage them, it takes a topic they feel they have a stake in, such as legalizing marijuana, he said.
"Even if all I could do was get younger people involved, I would be happy with my political career," he said.
A student walked past wearing a red baseball cap backwards and looked at the SJC Legalize Cannabis Now Club flyers, Dodson's election pamphlets and voting registration forms on the table, and then he looked at Dodson.
"Need some information," Dodson said.