A poll conducted last week for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper asked 420 New Mexico voters their opinions on Governor Gary Johnson's recently enunciated stance on drug policy. Of those polled, 60% agreed with Johnson's assessment that the drug war has failed.
Answers to more specific questions, however, revealed a more ambivalent and uncertain attitude regarding potential solutions to that problem.
44% of respondents agreed with the governor's view that the drug war had failed due to "an overemphasis on enforcement and incarceration," while only 40% disagreed with that statement. 24% agreed that drugs should be "decriminalized" with 60% opposed, but a larger number, 30% agreed that drug sales should be "regulated and taxed" similar to alcohol, with 50% opposed.
Steve Bunch, President of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation, told The Week Online that the numbers indicate both dissatisfaction with the current approach and a lack of information regarding alternatives.
"As you can see, a majority of New Mexicans understand that what we are doing now is simply not working. It's not working for our kids, for our communities or for our justice system. I think that it's interesting that more respondents favored a legalized, regulated market when it was explained to them than favored "decriminalization" when the word stood alone. This tells me that people have not been sufficiently informed on this issue, and that when they are, they tend to take a more reformist attitude."
"What the governor has indicated is that he'd like to see a broad discussion of this issue across the state," said Bunch. The governor seems to feel, and I agree, that this issue is far too important, and current policies are far too expensive and unproductive to have the debate centered around undefined terms such as "decriminalization." The drug problem is complex, and our societal response to it should be informed rather than emotional. As it stands now, kids across New Mexico have easy access to all kinds of illicit substances, more so even than they do a regulated drug like alcohol. We, as parents ad citizens, owe it to our kids and ourselves to take the time to become truly informed on this issue and to make our choices accordingly."