HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Hundreds Cheer Governor's Drug-Reform Stance
Pubdate: Sat, 02 Jun 2001
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2001 Albuquerque Journal


In the eyes of his Saturday audience, Gov. Gary Johnson was a star.

Johnson took his drug-reform message before a partisan crowd of several 
hundred people from all parts of the country. Once again, he called for the 
legalization of marijuana.

The Republican was the keynote speaker on the final day of the Lindesmith 
Center-Drug Policy Foundation international conference.

The organization   --   which is working toward drug reform and policy 
based on "public health, science, common sense and human rights"   -- met 
in Albuquerque this past week. About 700 people attended the meeting. Its 
theme was "Drug Policies for the New Millennium."

Johnson during his second term has pushed for drug reform, including the 
legalization of marijuana, describing the national war on drugs as "a 
miserable failure."

The Saturday audience appeared eager to hear him and cheer him.

"We have a politician, a governor, who has shown the commitment on this 
issue unlike any other politician anywhere, who has made this issue his 
own, who has publicly and privately not let up," said Ethan Nadelmann, 
executive director of the foundation.

Johnson, during his speech, touched on several aspects of drug reform.

He questioned why drug policies have not changed given the nation's 
experience with the failure of Prohibition in the early part of the last 

"How come we haven't connected the dots when it comes to the war on drugs?" 
he asked. "We're going to look back on this period in time and recognize it 
as the atrocity that it is. The war on drugs is a miserable failure."

The governor called drug reform the one of the biggest civil rights issue 
in the country today.

"There is not a bigger issue in the country that is going unaddressed when 
you consider that 50 percent of what we're spending on law enforcement, 50 
percent of what we're spending on courts, 50 percent of what we're spending 
on the prisons is going to the war on drugs," he said.

Johnson said 800,000 arrests a year are related to marijuana possession alone.

"So what do we need to do?" he asked. "Well, what we need to do is, first 
of all, we need to legalize marijuana."

In pushing for a new approach to the drug problem, the governor said, "We 
need to move away from a criminal model to a medical model.

"Just like alcohol, you have a drink in a bar, that's acceptable behavior. 
You have a number of drinks at the bar, and you get intoxicated, that's 
acceptable behavior. But then you go and get in your car, that's not 
acceptable behavior. That's criminal behavior.

"We need to apply those same principles when it comes to drugs."

Johnson also called for the elimination of mandatory sentencing for 
drug-related offenses.

"We're letting violent felons out of jail to make room for nonviolent, 
drug-convicted individuals that need to go to prison because of mandatory 
sentencing," he said.

The New Mexico Legislature during its last session considered a 
comprehensive program of drug measures. After the meeting Johnson said that 
the state could pass such legislation and lead the entire country toward 
drug reform.

"I believe that Governor Johnson is moving in the right direction in 
implementing policy," said Carle Ridley, 20, of Stillwater, Okla., 
following the governor's address. "We should not be incarcerating people 
for their choice of life."

Jack Frenkel, an 80-year-old retired physician from Santa Fe, said Johnson 
has helped bring much needed attention to the issue of drug use.

"It's a very important public health issue, and there is nothing being done 
about it," Frenkel said. "We have to learn to face it."
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