2/23/01

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David Borden, Executive Director, [email protected]

Once again, fragile negotiations to bring a measure of peace to our war-torn world are mired in uncertainty, and time is running out. If the two parties can't come together and work things out in the next few weeks, there might not be another such opportunity this entire year, maybe longer than that.

I'm talking about New Mexico. Unlike the Middle East situation (which you might have thought I was talking about), where the two negotiating parties are locked in a self-defeating cycle of sporadic violence, New Mexico's peace process involves two competing political factions who have both waged a war upon the state's own citizens for decades.

I'm talking about the Drug War, and I'm talking about bills proposed by the Republican Governor and his Task Force that would start to roll it back. Some of them, like syringe deregulatioin and asset forfeiture reform and maybe even medical marijuana appear to have strong chances. But other bills in the package, particularly those enacting marijuana decriminalization and some sentencing reforms, are struggling and might not survive New Mexico's whirlwind legislative session intact.

The primary stumbling block is not what you might have guessed. It's not so much the "law and order" types who are addicted to incarceration and won't stop until they've locked up every man and his neighbor. It's certain prominent Democrats in the state legislature who want Johnson's reforms to be tied to increased spending on drug treatment programs.

Johnson has responded by offering a treatment funding bill that is significantly larger in size than his libertarian, limited government predilections might lead him to prefer. But it's not enough yet for some of the Democrats, particularly Senators McSorley, Romero and House Speaker Lujan, and they are threatening to vote against his other reforms if he doesn't come up with tens of millions of dollars more.

Do the Democrats think that New Mexicans incarcerated during the coming year for marijuana possession or other low-level drug offenses as a result of the continuing drug war will be glad the Democrats held out for more treatment funds? Do they think that paying for such wasteful incarcerations is in the best interest of other New Mexicans?

The Democrats are most unfortunately wrong to tie support for decriminalization and sentencing reform to treatment funds. By all means, it's an ideal time for them to raise the issue of treatment and work to make it available. But to threaten to torpedo New Mexico's fledgling drug war peace process because of it is illogical, cruel and ultimately self-defeating: Every dollar spent incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders in the unwinnable drug war makes New Mexico, and our nation, poorer and less able to bring resources to bear on treatment, education, health care or anything else of value to humanity.

New Mexico's Democratic leadership should stop playing political games with drug policy reform: Too many lives are at stake.

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Issue #174, 2/23/01 New Report Rakes Clinton on Imprisonment | The Coca-Go-Round: Peruvian Production Starts to Increase as Spraying Destroys Colombian Fields | Washington State Hardliners Pitch Kindler, Gentler Drug War in Bid to Preempt Deeper Reforms | New Mexico: Update on Gov. Johnson's Drug Reform Package | Feds vs. Bongs: Heads Up for Head Shops | Newsbrief: American Pilots in Firefight With Colombian Rebels | Marijuana Has Less Adverse Effect on Driving Than Alcohol, Tiredness, UK Study Says | Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative Legal Briefs Online | An Invitation to Help Repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws | | Erratum: Three Strikes Clarification | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: The Peace Process
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