In 2006, John McKay adamantly defended the federal government's decision to go after Marc Emery, the so-called "Prince of Pot."
"Very simply, he's a drug dealer," McKay, then the U.S. Attorney for Western Washington, told 60 Minutes. Therefore, he deserved what McKay said was Emery's likely fate: becoming "the Prince of Federal Prison." This year McKay became part of a coalition that is sponsoring a new initiative to legalize marijuana. What happened to McKay? A lot, and it not only turned him into an advocate for drug law reform, but caused him to leave the Republican party, become a fierce Bush administration critic, and look for another role in public life. This week's cover story follows his transformation.
You can also follow his progression through a series of videos.
Here's McKay on the 2006 episode of 60 Minutes. Be sure to catch the then-U.S. Attorney, conservative in both dress and attitude, talking a couple minutes into the tape as well as near the end.
Now, take a look at McKay talking to CBS News the following year, shortly after he and a slew of other U.S. attorneys were fired by the Bush administration in a crass display of political gamesmanship. The suit and tie are gone, and so is his onetime loyalty to Bush's henchmen. "They've opened the Department of Justice to criticism that politics is involved with the work that we do," he says, calling the episode a "black cloud" on the DOJ.
Fast-forward two more years, to the spring of 2011, and we see yet another McKay, one who's become convinced that the drug war is a failure. He's now testifying in favor of a state legalization bill, one that ultimately failed. His testimony starts near the end of the video and continues on the next, which also shows Emery's wife Jodi testifying.
Finally, here's McKay after he's come out for Initiative 502. "It's a grown-up adult way to approach marijuana," he says at a forum on marijuana law put on by Seattle Weekly and KCTS last month.
For more insight, take a look at McKay's Whitman College speech, in which he announces his defection from the Republican party; a McKay article for Seattle University's law journal that offers a blow-by-blow of his 2006 firing and its aftermath; and, of course, our story this week.