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New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson likens the war on drugs in America to
policing the Berlin Wall, with one key difference.

''This is a wall that's 1,000 miles around us and only a quarter of an inch
thick. It won't take much to break through,'' Johnson told an audience of
100 at Harvard Medical School on Tuesday night.

''The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over
again and expecting different results,'' he said. ''The war on drugs is a
miserable failure and fits the definition of insanity.''

Johnson, a two-term Republican, has become one of the nation's leading
proponents of the legalization of drugs including marijuana, cocaine and
heroin. A former drug user himself, he believes drug use is a health
problem, not a crime, and is pushing for state legislation to that effect.

He believes ending the prohibition on drugs would solve the much of the
current problem.

''The uncontrolled nature of drugs is what kills people,'' he said. ''If we
can do this, we will have fewer nonviolent criminals behind bars.''

Johnson spoke as part of the school's Cabot Primary Care lecture series,
aimed at prompting discussions about issues facing primary care physicians.

A controversial figure because of his views, he said he is often accused of
sending the wrong message to children. But he disagrees.

''No one is sending a positive message on drugs, but 80 million Americans
are still doing them,'' he said. ''My message to kids is don't do drugs at

Tobacco and alcohol kill 450,000 and 150,000 people a year, respectively,
Johnson said. Abuse of legal prescription drugs leads to 100,000 deaths.
But only 10,000 are killed by illegal narcotics.

He said he believes education and treatment programs would be the most
effective way to quell the problem. He is also in favor of the use of
medicinal marijuana, selling syringes in drug stores, and re-establishing
voting rights for felons.

''When it comes to drugs we need to say 'know' that's K-N-O-W,'' he said.

Students and medical professionals who gathered to hear him speak agreed
with his controversial perspective.

Dennis Wieland, a pharmacist from Iowa City, Iowa, said use of marijuana
for medical uses deserves a closer look.

''We need to study this more. We must find out if it really has value,'' he

Eran Bendavid, a 27-year-old medical student from Israel, called the war on
drugs a ''no-win situation.''

''This is not a war,'' he said. ''A war has winners and losers. That's too
simple an explanation for this.''

Richard Gardner, a gastroneurologist at Boston's Mount Auburn Hospital,
said Johnson's ideas should be taken even further, to include the
legalization of harder drugs, including morphine.

''There's use and then there's abuse of drugs,'' he said. ''Drugs shouldn't
always be seen as being bad for you as long as they're used appropriately.''

Newshawk: Cannabis News - marijuana, hemp, and cannabis news
Pubdate: Tue, 17 Apr 2001
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 2001 Associated Press
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Heidi B. Perlman, Associated Press
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