New Mexico Republicans Stop Short of Repudiating Governor 7/30/99

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Republican officials in New Mexico have gone out of their way in recent weeks to distance themselves from Governor Gary Johnson's statements regarding the need to reassess the drug war, but they stopped short of endorsing a platform plank against the decriminalization of currently illicit drugs. Instead, the party has decided to send a letter to the governor outlining the official Republican position on drugs.

State party chair Brian Dendahl argued against the resolution, writing a letter to all forty members of the committee urging them to hold off on the resolution for fear of signaling a split in their ranks. "As I write this I worry that the resolution would be perceived as a direct slap of Governor Johnson by our committee," he wrote.

Johnson's recent statements, including his repeated assertion that he does not believe that smoking marijuana ought to be considered a crime, have gotten wide play in New Mexico, both in the media and in the political arena. Johnson's fellow Republicans, in particular, have gone out of their way to publicly disagree with their governor. Johnson, however, has told the media that the mail he has received on the issue is running "10 to 1" in favor of his proposal to study the situation. All 112 seats of the New Mexico legislature are up for grabs next year.

Steve Bunch, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation and coordinator of the New Mexico Alliance for Drug Policy Reform, told The Week Online that he is encouraged by the surge in interest that the governor's statements have brought to the issue, but that there is a lot of work to be done before real change can be foreseen.

"Right now there is a tremendous opportunity to educate people in the state as to the damage being done by current policies. We're certainly not at the point where we're looking for legislative initiatives, but we also know that when people become aware of the real impact of the drug war, the expense, the civil liberties issues, and especially the fact that this policy is egregiously failing our kids, they tend to get very interested in discussing alternative strategies. It's up to us to get the message out, to educate potential allies and to make it as politically dangerous to ignore the problem as it is now to face the problem."

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Issue #101, 7/30/99 House Reinstates "Social Riders" in District of Colombia Appropriations Bill | New Mexico Republicans Stop Short of Repudiating Governor | Jamaica: Lawmakers Consider Decriminalization of Marijuana, Medical Marijuana Research Facility | Clinton Administration Proposes Changes to Methadone Regulations | Army Spy Plane Disappears Over Colombia, Speculation of Coming US Intervention Abounds | Australian State to Open Legal Heroin Injecting Room | DEA Chief Acknowledges Agency's Ineffectiveness | Newsbriefs | Senate Considering Raising Methamphetamine Penalties | Editorial: Body Bags
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