HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Republicans Feud Over Drug-Reform Legislation
Pubdate: Wed, 06 Feb 2002
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)
Copyright: 2002 The Santa Fe New Mexican
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


A blustery exchange this week between Republican lawmakers on 
opposite sides of the drug-reform debate highlights the schism the 
issue has created among GOP legislators.

Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Cedar Crest, argued with fellow Republican Reps. 
Joe Thompson of Albuquerque and Dan Foley of Roswell at Monday's 
House Judiciary Committee meeting. During the exchange, Thompson 
asked newspapers to print that Godbey had admitted he wasn't aware of 
any bills before the Legislature this year that would decriminalize 
drugs other than marijuana.

Godbey on Tuesday refused to acknowledge Thompson's take on his 
statements because the current drug-reform legislation "is part of an 
incremental attempt to legalize drugs one step at a time."

The bills aimed at allowing the use of prescription marijuana for 
medical purposes (SB8) and removing criminal sanctions for the 
possession of small amounts of pot (HB25) "would not legalize heroin 
and cocaine - just toking marijuana ... but (reform advocates will) 
be back next year," Godbey said.

A fierce opponent of drug reform, Godbey also said a third 
drug-reform bill (SB331) making treatment instead of incarceration 
mandatory for first-time nonviolent offenders "is a subtle way to 
legalize heroin and cocaine" because it removes the sanction of jail 
time for users of those drugs.

Still, Thompson said Godbey's comments are the first time one of the 
drug-reform opponents has admitted nothing before the Legislature 
this year would actually legalize drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Rep. Gail Beam, D-Albuquerque, stepped into the GOP fray, stating she 
and Godbey "agree to disagree" on the issue of drug reform.

But Beam questioned Godbey about radio ads paid for by Protect New 
Mexico, a group opposed to the drug-reform bills. In the ads, a 
narrator hints the Legislature is trying to legalize heroin.

"It lowers the quality of the debate that citizens of this state are 
entitled to" by lumping allegations of heroin legalization into the 
mix, Thompson said.

"What do people have to fear from the truth?" asked Beam.

Godbey said he isn't a member of Protect New Mexico and hasn't heard 
the ads, much less had anything to do with producing them.

"I will take a blood oath," Godbey said. "I will take a polygraph. 
... I had nothing to do with those ads."

This week, a group called Improve New Mexico - which is part of the 
Lindesmith Center, a drug-reform group that has been a driving force 
in the effort to liberalize drug laws - began a radio ad campaign in 
an effort to counter Protect New Mexico.

A commercial heard on KKOB-AM radio features two women talking about 
"scare tactics" used by anti-drug reform proponents. The actors in 
the ad deny anyone is trying to legalize hard drugs.

Katharyn Huffman, director of Lindesmith's New Mexico office, said 
the ads were purposely similar to Protect New Mexico's because the 
organization is trying to "clear up misinformation" she said was in 
the other group's ads.

Steve Terrell contributed to this report.
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