The Governor's Drug Policy Advisory Group, appointed by New Mexico Governor Johnson last May, has completed its Report and Recommendations evaluating the effectiveness of current New Mexico drug policies. The blue-ribbon panel, a diverse group including judges, the Secretaries of Health and of Public Safety, the mayor of Albuquerque, and other policy and medical experts, is recommending a comprehensive list of specific programs and strategies to improve the way that New Mexico deals with drug abuse and drug policy.
The Advisory Group's Recommendations include the implementation of effective prevention and drug education programs, the availability of effective drug treatment on request to anyone who needs it, the expansion of harm reduction strategies to decrease the potential dangers of drug use and abuse, and the reform of criminal justice sentencing for certain drug offenders.
"It's become apparent that the current 'war on drugs' is a failure," said retired District Court Judge Woody Smith, Chair of the Advisory Group. "The question is, what concrete changes can be made to address the dangers of drug abuse and drug-related violence effectively. We hope this Report will help New Mexico answer that question."
According to the NORML News (http://www.norml.org), the advisory group, among the Advisory Group's recommendations is ending criminal sanctions for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by anyone over 18 years old (those smoking marijuana in public would still face a civil fine), and recommended that the Lynn Pierson medical marijuana act be amended to allow physicians to recommend and patients to access medical marijuana when medically appropriate.
According to NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup, "The Governor's Drug Policy Advisory Group joins a long list of prestigious commissions and study groups that have reached the conclusion that we should stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers, including the National Commission on Marijuana Use and Drug Abuse (Shaffer Commission, 1972) in this country, the LeDain Commission (1972) in Canada and the Wooten Report (1968) in England."
The committee also recommended reducing first and second drug possession offenses to misdemeanors with automatic probation and substance abuse treatment rather than jail time, the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders, and a reallocation of police resources to focus primarily on violent crime and secondarily on property crime, rather than on drug enforcement.
In addition to Judge Smith, the Advisory Group includes Secretary Alex Valdez of the Department of Health; Secretary Nick Bakas of the Department of Public Safety; Albuquerque Mayor Jim Baca; Senior Judge John Kane of the United States District Court of Denver; Angie Vachio, Executive Director of PB & J Family Services; New Mexico State Senator Cisco McSorley; Steve Bunch, President of the New Mexico Drug Policy Foundation; Dr. Steve Jenison of the Infectious Disease Bureau of Public Health; and Dr. Norty Kalishman of the McCune Charitable Foundation.