Editorial: Can't Keep a Good Idea Down 6/25/99

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Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]

File this in the "You Just Can't Keep a Good Idea Down" folder. New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, a Republican, sparked controversy this week by proclaiming the drug war "a failure" and advocating a wide-ranging debate on alternatives, including decriminalization. Governor Johnson's remarks came exactly one week after his GOP party-mates in Congress compared drug policy reformers to child abusers, rapists and pedophiles and even went so far as to urge the criminal prosecution of reform advocates under federal RICO statutes.

Governor Johnson, a 46 year-old father of two and an avid triathlete, has previously admitted using marijuana and occasionally cocaine while in college. "What I did was criminal," he said in an interview, "and yet those people that I knew that did the same thing and those that still do it today, I don't consider them criminals."

There is no question that New Mexico is a long way from Washington, DC. But do not think for a moment that it will go unnoticed within the Republican leadership that one of their governors has broken party ranks on the drug war. The very fact that Congressional hearings were held last week, convened by Republican John Mica of Florida, is testament to the fact that the party is both concerned about the growing calls for reform and determined to do all that it can to discredit them.

Despite the rabidity of the most ideological drug warriors, the issue of drug policy, and particularly the realization that what we are currently doing is disastrous, is gaining currency across the nation. Nevertheless, it is telling that Governor Johnson created a political firestorm by the mere suggestion that we discuss all viable alternatives. Such reaction, along with the ugliness of last week's Congressional hearings, show that even pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is still an act of extreme political courage.

It will be interesting to watch the Republican party as the ideological split over this issue continues to emerge. The drug war is an issue upon which many GOPers have staked their reputations, and filled their campaign coffers. But it is an issue that is beginning to create a chasm that will soon become impossible to ignore. For Republicans, already struggling with internal divisions over abortion, gun control and censorship of the popular culture, there might not be a tent big enough for this one.

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Issue #96, 6/25/99 Governor of New Mexico Calls Drug War Failed -- Calls for Discussion of Alternatives | Hyde's Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act Passes House Easily | Vancouver's Cannabis Cafe, Hemp BC Closed | Activist Banned from Talking About Marijuana | NEW YORK: Staten Island Assemblyman Wants Needle Exchange Banned | IDAHO: "Drug Bust: The Longest War" TV Special Preempted by Drug Testing Speech in Boise | News in Brief | Supreme Court Roundup | WASHINGTON: Free Video and Lunch-Talk Series | Editorial: Can't Keep a Good Idea Down
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