Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jul 1999
Source: Reuters
Copyright: 1999 Reuters Limited.


SANTA FE, N.M. (Reuters) - New Mexico's Republican Party will send a letter
to the state's Republican governor criticizing his call to consider
legalizing marijuana and other drugs, party officials said Tuesday.

State Republican Party Chairman John Dendahl said party leaders decided to
write Gov. Gary Johnson to remind him that "his stance is out of step with
the national party platform." "Some of the core (party) group and the most
conservative members are adamantly against it," said Dendahl. "They say
decriminalization is so far off the table, it shouldn't be discussed at all."

Johnson made headlines last month by calling for a debate on the
decriminalization of drugs.

The second-term governor said the war on drugs was not working and it would
be a logical first step to change laws on marijuana because it was less
addictive than cocaine or heroin.

"His comments about legalizing marijuana were anecdotal," said Dendahl, who
noted that marijuana was legal in New Mexico for medicinal and religious

"He said he knew people who smoked and he had a hard time equating that
with criminal activity."

Dendahl said he and some other Republicans agreed that a broad-based
discussion about drugs, including decriminalization, could be useful.

But he said they were trying to avoid a rift in the party and hoped that
the letter would lead to a resolution.

"We want the discussion to be civil and on the merits and not kick out
anyone who disagrees with one of the party platforms," said Dendahl. "He's
getting a little distracted from the important things he can accomplish in
New Mexico."

A spokesman for Johnson said he was on vacation and unavailable for comment.
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