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Gov. Gary Johnson brought his message that marijuana should be legalized to
Silver City on Thursday, calling the war on drugs a misdirected approach
that is "tearing the country apart."

Johnson was the featured speaker at the 36th annual Drug and Alcohol
Institute at Western New Mexico University.

"Here's my message. Don't do drugs. Don't drink. Until you stop drinking you
don't know what a handicap it is," said Johnson, who took his last drink 15
years ago.

"Eighty-four million Americans have done illegal drugs. Fifty-two percent of
young people have done drugs," said the governor, making the point that the
war on drugs isn't working.

"Let's try the opposite," he said, in advocating education in addition to

"Tell kids what drugs and alcohol do," Johnson told conference attendees.
"It's never going to be legal for kids to ingest drugs or alcohol.

"Don't smoke marijuana. Don't drink. The more you drink, the more it becomes
a handicap. We should focus on education and getting drugs out of the hands
of kids.

"Prohibition encourages drug use. Kids are the mules (used to transport and
distribute drugs) because kids get a second chance."

Citing statistics from Holland and Switzerland indicating drug-related
crimes and death from drug overdoses fell dramatically with
decriminalization, Johnson said there would be less substance abuse if
marijuana was legalized.

In Switzerland, where heroin is dispensed through clinics, doses are free
and regulated, Johnson said.

"The idea is to reduce death, disease and crime," he said, adding that the
incidence of disease from shared needles and death from drug overdose in
Zurich fell nine-tenths after clinics began dispensing drugs legally to

"(Drug use) is a health problem rather than a criminal justice problem.
Great Britain is no longer enforcing marijuana laws. But people (in this
country) say it's the law. We can change laws."

Johnson included alcohol prohibition, together with segregation, and denying
the vote to women among the worst laws of the 20th century.

He then drew parallels between former laws prohibiting alcohol and laws now
in effect making marijuana illegal.

"Death is a function of prohibition. People died drinking bathtub gin.
Prohibition is what kills. Drug prohibition is tearing this country apart,
not drug use."

He said that between the costs of law enforcement, courts and prisons, the
state is spending massive resources on the war on drugs that could be put to
better use. Nevertheless, Johnson made clear his position that any action
resulting in harm to others should be punished.

"Get behind the wheel of a car (under the influence of drugs or alcohol)
then it's a crime. Harm someone or damage their property and there should be

"I believe in an eye for an eye."

What should be of concern to all New Mexicans, Johnson said, is that violent
criminals are being released from prison to make room for those convicted of
nonviolent crimes.

He then told of a woman convicted of prescription fraud who received a
stiffer sentence than criminals convicted of rape, kidnapping and
second-degree murder.

Punishments for those sentenced for drug use "are way out of whack," Johnson
said, before recounting the case involving a woman he recently pardoned for
cocaine use who was raped by six prison guards.

"She did more time than they did. Get convicted of second-degree murder, and
you can still get your student loan, but not if you've done cocaine."

Johnson called drug and alcohol abuse and its cost in lost lives, government
resources, dollars and productivity "the biggest problem the world is facing
today that actually has a solution."

The weeklong conference was attended by members of the New Mexico
Association of Addiction Professionals.

In closing, Johnson thanked substance abuse counselors for making a positive
impact on people's lives.

Pubdate: Sat, 10 Aug 2002
Source: Silver City Daily Press & Independent (NM)
Contact: letters@thedailypress.com
Copyright: 2002 Silver City Daily Press
Website: http://www.thedailypress.com/
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Stephen Siegfried
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Johnson, Gary)
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