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JOHNSON'S FACTS ON DRUG WAR ATTACKED

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Gov. Gary Johnson went head-to-head with former U.S. drug czar Barry
McCaffrey on the nation's drug war on NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday, with
McCaffrey mocking Johnson's "facts" on the issue.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, and I certainly respect the
governor for forcefully expressing his," McCaffrey said. "You're not
entitled to your own facts."

McCaffrey told moderator Tim Russert he had contacted Johnson's office to
see where the governor got his information about drug law reform.

"I had my guys call the governor's office and say, 'Where are these
assertions coming from?' and the answer was Rolling Stone," McCaffrey said.

Johnson stood by his information and urged viewers to do their own research
on the Internet. "Clearly, the facts are what they are," said Johnson, who
is advised on the drug reform issue by a number of advocacy groups, most
notably the New York City-based Lindesmith Center.

At issue was Johnson's contention that the war on drugs has failed and that
marijuana should be legalized.

McCaffrey contends the United States has made great strides in combatting
drug abuse by putting hundreds of millions of dollars into drug treatment
and education programs in addition to law enforcement efforts.

"We think we've got a rational strategy and it's paying off for America,"
said McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army general who headed the White House
Office of National Drug Control Policy during the Clinton administration.

McCaffrey said drug use had decreased 50 percent over the last 20 years,
which Johnson disputed.

Johnson said the United States should follow the examples of Holland and
Switzerland, which have decriminalized or legalized certain drugs. Johnson
touted a program in Zurich, Switzerland, where addicts are given free
heroin in clinics.

"I would not want to model myself after the Swiss experiment," countered
McCaffrey. "It was a disaster. It's disgusting what they've done."

Johnson, who has acknowledged trying cocaine and smoking marijuana in his
early 20s, told Russert he believes marijuana "is not addictive."

But McCaffrey argued marijuana is "not a benign substance" and is
particularly dangerous for children.

Johnson said he and McCaffrey agree people should not use drugs.

"Don't do drugs. Don't drink," said Johnson, an avid triathlete who doesn't
smoke cigarettes and hasn't had a drink of alcohol in 13 years.

But Johnson said he does not believe the United States should continue to
arrest 1.6 million people a year on drug-related crimes. Johnson maintains
money now spent on drug law enforcement should be redirected to prevention
and treatment.

McCaffrey had mockingly referred to Johnson as "Puff Daddy Johnson" during
an October 1999 visit to Albuquerque not long after Johnson began his
national crusade to change drug laws.

In March, McCaffrey and Johnson squared off on CNN's Inside Politics
program, with McCaffrey blasting Johnson for "irresponsible thinking" in
pushing drug law reform.

On Sunday, as he has previously, McCaffrey noted that Rep. Heather Wilson,
R-N.M., who represents the 1st congressional district, and Sen. Pete
Domenici, R-N.M., are at odds with fellow Republican Johnson over drugs.

"People in New Mexico, like Congresswoman Heather Wilson, a Rhodes scholar
and mother, and Sen. Pete Domenici couldn't disagree more with the governor
on this," McCaffrey said.

McCaffrey pointed out that most of the bills in Johnson's drug reform
package failed to pass during this year's 60-day legislative session.

"His package failed in his own state," McCaffrey said. "He's got to listen
to the people in his own state. His own prosecuting attorneys denounced him
on this issue."

"There's no question that this is going to happen," Johnson told Russert.
"We can't continue to arrest and incarcerate this country."


Newshawk: DrugSense DrugSense
Pubdate: Mon, 23 Apr 2001
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Section: Pg A5
Copyright: 2001 Albuquerque Journal
Contact: opinion@abqjournal.com
Website: The Albuquerque Journal
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Loie Fecteau, Journal Politics Writer
 
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