HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Johnson Doubles Drug-Proposal Funds
Pubdate: Wed, 07 Feb 2001
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2001 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Contact:  202 E Marcy, Santa Fe, N.M. 87501
Fax: (505) 986-3040
Author: Steve Terrell
Bookmark: (Johnson, Gary)


After "hitting a wall" in the Legislature with his drug-reform package,
Gov. Gary Johnson will double the amount of money for
drug-rehabilitation treatment programs from what he originally proposed.

Dave Miller, Johnson's legislative liaison, said Tuesday Johnson has
approved a plan that would offer nearly $10 million annually for
education, prevention and treatment programs.

However, Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque - who is sponsoring several
of the bills in Johnson's drug package - said Thursday that he still
thinks $40 million is needed for drug rehabilitation.

"I'm working on putting together a bill on treatment," he said.

McSorley and Johnson are scheduled to meet about the issue today.

Miller said the state already spends more than $30 million on
drug-treatment programs. "This is a 30-percent increase," he said.

Like the $5 million Miller initially proposed, the $10 million would
come from New Mexico's share of the settlement in a lawsuit against the
major tobacco companies.

Linda Siegle, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, said she does
not oppose using the tobacco settlement funds for this purpose - as long
as the state spends $5 million a year on tobacco prevention and
cessation programs.

New Mexico is expected to get about $1.2 billion over 25 years from the
settlement with tobacco companies.

While all of Johnson's drug-reform bills have been introduced in the
Senate, only two have been introduced in the House.

Miller said the administration has been having problems finding sponsors
for bills in the House, partly because Johnson has not yet introduced
legislation dealing with treatment funds.

"Democrats have been waiting to see what we're offering for treatment,"
Miller said. "And there has been Republican resistance. Between the two,
we've hit a wall."

Some of Johnson's fellow Republicans have been the harshest critics of
the drug bills.

The one drawing the most fire have been one that would take criminal
penalties away from possession of small amounts of marijuana and one
that would make simple possession of drugs a misdemeanor for first and
second a misdemeanor with mandatory treatment.

Miller said a bill, which could be introduced later this week, will call
for a regional approach for treating addicts, using the state Health
Department's regional care network.

The state Corrections Department would get some of the $10 million to
treat addicts. He said the department would take a "halfway house"
approach for addicted inmates about to be released from prison,

The two laws introduced in the House - both by Rep. Joe Thompson,
R-Albuquerque - are one allowing medical use of marijuana by certain
patients and one that would not allow the state to gain ownership of
houses, vehicles and other property from drug defendants until after

Other drug reform laws introduced in the Senate include those that

* Change the state habitual-offender act so those convicted of drug
crimes would not face mandatory additional prison time from previous

* Expand the state needle exchange, changing the law so pharmacists
cannot be charged with drug-paraphernalia offenses for distributing

* Change liability laws to allow police officers and others to
administer a drug called naloxone or Narcan, which can save the life of
someone overdosing on heroin.

Miller said he originally intended to draft a bill that would allow
ex-cons to become drug counselors. However, he said the Legislative
Council told him that the administration could do this without passing a
new law.
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