Pubdate: Fri, 08 Sep 2000
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2000 Albuquerque Journal
Contact:  P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103
Author: Barry Massey The Associated Press


SANTA FE   -   Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, joining
Republican Gov. Gary Johnson in criticizing the nation's war on drugs,
called Friday for the legalization of marijuana as part of an overhaul
of the nation's "self-defeating and antiquated drug laws."

"Addiction should never be treated as a crime. It has to be treated as
a health problem," said Nader, who joined the governor at a news
conference here.

"We do not send alcoholics to jail in this country. We do not send
nicotine users to jail in this country. Over 500,000 people are in our
jails who are non-violent drug users."

Nader   -   like Johnson   -   supports lifting criminal sanctions for
marijuana possession. For other drugs, such as heroin, he advocated
"harm reduction" programs, such as methadone maintenance and needle
exchanges, that focus on treatment of addiction and prevention of
health problems from drug use.

Johnson has made waves politically for more than a year by advocating
the legalization of marijuana and heroin. However, he has since
dropped his support for making it legal to use heroin because it
proved too controversial. He is the nation's highest-ranking elected
official to publicly support drug legalization.

Nader described drug policy changes, such as legalization, as a "taboo
subject" for most politicians.

Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush oppose legalizing
marijuana, according to their campaign spokesmen.

R. Keith Stroup, executive director of the Washington-D.C.-based
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said it was a
"significant step forward" for Nader to support legalization.

"To have a candidate for president now join with Governor Johnson and
make the same call adds weight to the growing argument that we should
stop arresting responsible marijuana users," Stroup said.

Nader's support for marijuana legalization drew a sharp rebuke from
the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

"I find it irresponsible that in a state that has among the highest
rates of drug abuse among children in the nation that public officials
would send the message to young people that marijuana is acceptable
and safe," said Rob Housman, assistant director of strategic planning.

Legalizing marijuana, Nader said, would allow the government to
regulate and potentially tax its use like tobacco products. He also
said there should be more educational and counseling programs aimed at
preventing drug use by children and young people.

At the news conference, Nader and Johnson agreed too much money is
spent trying to stop the flow of drugs into the United States and
drug-related prosecutions rather than on addiction treatment and
preventing drug use.

Johnson did not endorse Nader's candidacy but supported many of the
reform proposals advocated by the Green Party nominee, such as
same-day voter registration and removing ballot access barriers to
third-party candidates.

Johnson said he continued to support GOP presidential hopeful George
W. Bush, but the governor described Nader as an "American hero." He
also said Nader's candidacy should bring more national attention to
the drug legalization issue.

"You're talking about this issue as a presidential candidate has all
of the opportunity to be able to make this a safe topic for all
politicians to talk about," Johnson told Nader.

Gore favors tougher penalties for drug trafficking and increased
federal money for community policing programs to fight drug crime in
neighborhoods, said Maria Meier, a Gore spokesperson.

Bush, in a statement issued by his campaign, said drug abuse should be
fought "with a balanced policy of education, treatment and aggressive
law enforcement, both through interdiction abroad and through
effective enforcement domestically."
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