HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html 'Nightline' Appearance Kicks Off Drug Debate
Pubdate: Wed, 31 Jan 2001
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2001 Albuquerque Journal
Contact:  P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, N.M. 87103
Author: S.U. Mahesh


SANTA FE  None of Gov. Gary Johnson's proposed drug policy changes have 
been introduced so far during this legislative session, but the subject 
nonetheless triggered heated Senate debate Tuesday.

"We just had a warm-up without any bills being introduced," joked Lt. Gov. 
Walter Bradley, presiding over the Senate, while prodding lawmakers to move 
on with unfinished daily business.

Johnson has called the nation's "war on drugs" a failure and proposed 
policy changes aimed at prevention, education and treatment.

In New Mexico, the governor has called for decriminalizing possession of 
small amounts of marijuana for personal use, allowing certain patients to 
use pot for medical reasons and abolishing mandatory prison terms on repeat 
drug offenders, among other changes.

Johnson appeared Monday on ABC's "Nightline," a late-night, issue-oriented 
news show, and defended his drug proposals, including marijuana 
decriminalization and "harm reduction" strategies.

That appearance irked Sen. Manny Aragon, D-Albuquerque, who accused Johnson 
of airing "neglect and dirty laundry of New Mexico" before the national 

Aragon also charged that Johnson has proposed drug reforms but failed to 
allocate money for treatment, education and intervention programs in his 
executive budget.

He called upon Johnson to "stop playing games with these serious problems."

Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, had his say next.

McSorley, who plans to sponsor the marijuana decriminalization and medical 
marijuana bills in the Senate, asked Johnson for $40 million for 
substance-abuse treatment programs.

With $40 million, McSorley said, "We can make a dent in this problem."

But Sen. Don Kidd, R-Carlsbad, countered that $40 million for 
substance-abuse treatment programs would have no effect unless it was put 
in a bank and drug addicts received monthly allowances to buy drugs "so 
they don't steal your TV."

Kidd said he would rather spend the money on educating children.

Dave Miller, the governor's legislative liaison, said later Tuesday that 
Johnson would propose spending $5 million for treatment of drug addicts as 
well as other programs, such as expanding methadone treatment for heroin 

Miller said the administration was concerned that treatment money would be 
transformed into "political pork" if a large budget increase was approved 
and legislators were permitted to allocate the spending to specific 
projects benefiting their home areas.
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