Gary Johnson, Republican Governor of New Mexico, ignited a firestorm in his state on Wednesday (6/23) by calling for a re-examination of the failed drug war and a discussion of alternatives, including decriminalization.
"It (the drug war) needs to get talked about," he said in an interview, "and one of the things that's going to get talked about is decriminalization. We really need to put all options on the table."
Johnson, who said that the drug war was a "miserable failure" that "hasn't worked," noted that "the drug problem is getting worse. It's not getting better."
The suggestion became a big story in the New Mexico media, with the state's largest newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, running it as the lead story the following day (see http://www.abqjournal.com/news/3news06-24.htm) and local news stations interviewing DARE officers and others for reaction.
Steven Bunch, President of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, commended the governor for bringing the issue to public debate.
"Governor Johnson is absolutely correct about the failure of the so-called drug war. Prohibition has caused more problems than the policy has solved. It has corrupted our nation and it insures that our children have access to substances that we cannot possibly control in a black market."
Predictably, not every New Mexico elected official was receptive to the idea.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Joe Skeen (R-NM) told the Journal that the congressman's views "can be summed up in three words: 'Just Say No.'"
Johnson, who is 46 years-old and is the father of two teenage children, has previously acknowledged that he had used marijuana, and occasionally cocaine while in college. Now an avid triathlon, he stopped using drugs in his early 20's and has not used alcohol in 12 years.
"What I did was criminal," he said, "and yet those people that I knew that did the same and those that still do it today, I don't consider them criminals."
MAKE A DIFFERENCE: Write to Governor Johnson and let him know that you appreciate his political courage -- especially if you're from New Mexico. If you have family or friends in New Mexico, urge them to call. The Governor's number is (505) 827-3000, or you can write to Governor Gary E. Johnson, Office of the Governor, State Capitol Building, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87503, or comment through the net at http://126.96.36.199/opinion/Opinion.htm. His office needs to hear from people, especially constituents, so Governor Johnson will know there is support for what he is trying to accomplish.
Submit letters to the editor to the Albuquerque Journal at [email protected], fax to (505) 823-3812, or mail to: Letters to the Editor, The Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103. Your letter needs to include your name, address and phone number, and your signature if using fax or snail-mail. It should probably be under 200 words, to have the best chance of getting printed.