New Mexico Governor Stands By Call For Drug Reform

Date: Wed, 18 Aug 1999
Subject: New Mexico Governor Stands By Call For Drug Reform

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #120 August 18, 1999

New Mexico Governor Stands By Call For Drug Reform



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #120 August 18, 1999

New Mexico Governor Stands By Call For Drug Reform

Last month, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson surprised many around the
country by suggesting that it is time for the nation to reevaluate its
drug policies. He raised the possibility of decriminalizing drugs.
Naturally he found little immediate support from mainstream
politicians, Republican or Democrat.

Since he first made his statements the press seems to be growing more
interested, especially as it appears Johnson has no plans to back away
from his position. Last week, the AP placed a story on the wires about
Johnson; this week he appeared on MSNBC and the Albuquerque Tribune
offered a respectful profile (below).

Please write a letter to the Tribune, other New Mexico papers, or your
own local newspaper to show support for Johnson’s brave common sense
and to encourage other politicians to come out of the closet regarding
the need for reform.

Thanks for your effort and support.


It’s not what others do it’s what YOU do


Phone, fax etc.)

Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the MAPTalk
list if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with
so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit

This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our
impact and effectiveness.


Source: Albuquerque Tribune (NM)



Write other New Mexico newspapers, or your own local newspapers to
express appreciation for Johnson’s stand and to remind other
high-level politicians that the ice has been broken and it’s time for
them to join a serious debate.

NOTE: All NM papers have carried stories about Gov. Johnson’s courageous stand.
To review any or all of the recent articles and/or published LTEs on Governor
Johnson See:

Some other New Mexico newspapers: (Albuquerque Journal) (Las Cruces Sun-News)

To find other email addresses for other newspapers search



Governor Johnson is undoubtedly taking some tremendous heat from drug
warriors for his courageous stand. He is the highest profile
politician in the nation calling for a national debate on drug policy.
He needs PLENTY of encouragement.

Please consider calling his office to voice your opinion or faxing a
copy of your letter to him.



NOTE Gov. Johnson’s home web page can be viewed at


Pubdate: Tue, 17 Aug 1999
Source: Albuquerque Tribune (NM)
Copyright: 1999 The Albuquerque Tribune.
Author: Ollie Reed Jr., Tribune reporter


Governor in spotlight, but he’s on stage alone Drug-use, voucher
issues get Gary Johnson national media attention but little political

Gov. Gary Johnson — grim-faced and intent, jaw muscles tensed —
leaned slightly forward in the chair in KOB-TV’s Albuquerque studio
and stared at the television monitor a few feet away.

The governor was zeroed in on the Monday morning edition of “Hot
Wire,” a national MSNBC cable news program. In just minutes, he would
appear on the show live to talk about his controversial call for
national consideration of decriminalizing marijuana use.

In the background, KOB newsroom personnel quietly went about Monday
morning’s business. And just across the room, a couple of the
governor’s aids chatted with each other and with reporters, trying not
to sound apprehensive about the fast-approaching interview.

But the governor was alone in front of the monitor, watching MSNBC
staffers do stories on students returning to Colorado’s Columbine High
School as he awaited his turn in the spotlight.

Alone is a feeling he’s becoming accustomed to. And it’s a condition
the “Hot Wire” anchor alluded to as he introduced Johnson.

“The Republican governor says too much money is being spent to fight a
war that the country is losing. And he says the answer may lie in
decriminalizing drugs, and that stand has him at odds with fellow

Ten minutes later, after the interview, after Johnson had told a
national television audience he doesn’t believe people should go to
jail for using marijuana, the governor conceded he is breaking new
political ground and exploring possibilities others fear to tackle.

“I feel out on a limb,” the governor said. “I think this is something
that needs to be said and no one else is saying it.”

In recent months, the governor’s positions on drugs and on school
vouchers have made him something of a hot topic in the media.

In April, The Economist, a respected magazine of ideas and opinions,
did a piece about Johnson and school vouchers that the magazine titled
“America’s Boldest Governor.”

He has been interviewed by the Dallas Morning News, discussed in Wall
Street Journal editorials and is expecting a visit today from The New
York Times.

Johnson said he believes there isn’t another governor, member of the
U.S. House of Representatives or a U.S. senator talking about
decriminalizing drug use as a way to refocus the war against illegal

Certainly, he said, he has received no support from any high-profile
political figures.

But that didn’t keep Johnson from coming out swinging in Monday’s TV
interview, a session he started by asking a question himself.

“How much money does our government spend each year on incarceration,
on enforcements and on courts?” he asked.

The anchor didn’t know, but the governor thought he

“Well, we’re spending about $50 billion a year,” he said, “and I would
argue that about half the resources that we spend when it comes to
incarcerations, enforcements and courts are spent on illegal
drug-related crime.”

Before the anchor could jump in, Johnson hastened to point out he was
not condoning drug use just because he thought money used to enforce
drug-use laws could be better spent in other ways.

“Drugs are an incredibly bad choice,” the governor said. “Don’t do

The anchor acknowledged that Johnson, a nationally ranked triathlete,
abstains from drugs and alcohol now, but he asked the governor if it
were true that he had admitted smoking marijuana while in college and
using cocaine about three times.

“Right,” said Johnson, who disclosed his past drug use during the 1994
campaign before he was first elected governor.

But then he muddied the answer by adding, “That’s my point. We’re
doing drugs. Under the right set of circumstances . . . I, along
with tens of millions of others — we’re behind bars.”

Later, Johnson spokeswoman Diane Kinderwater said the governor did not
mean he was still using drugs or that he had ever been in jail for
using them.

She said Johnson simply meant that if everyone who ever used illegal
drugs had been imprisoned, there would be millions and millions of
people behind bars.

Still, Johnson told the television audience that some 700,000 people
had been arrested in this country on marijuana-related charges, and he
thinks that’s a waste of law-enforcement energies and public money.

“We are sending people to jail today for selling even small amounts of
drugs, including marijuana,” he said.

After Monday’s interview, the governor said the public would be better
served if some portion of the billions spent fighting drugs was used
for programs to prevent drug use or to help people kick the drug habit.

He added the money could be used to fund a strong anti-drug
advertising campaign.

The governor, who is planning forums on drug-use policy later this
summer, admitted that a lot of fellow Republicans disagree with his
views on drugs, but he said a lot of them are willing to talk about
the issue.

John Dendahl, chairman of New Mexico’s Republican Party, supported
that assessment.

“In the main, the governor is getting a fair hearing,” Dendahl said.
“There are some people coming out of the woodwork in support of
decriminalization. He’s getting kudos from them — and some of them
are Republicans.”

Dendahl, who did not see the governor’s TV interview on Monday, said
the state’s Republican executive committee did send a letter to the
governor opposing decriminalization just to make sure that Johnson’s
stand was not the last word on drug enforcement or decriminalization
in New Mexico.

Johnson said he’s not worried about what his views on
decriminalization might do to his political future in New Mexico,
because he’s not planning one.

“There is no future,” the two-term governor said. “This is it. This
is the last public office I’m going to hold.

“And I’m raising the issues that need to be raised. This is good
politics. This is the job I was hired to do.”

The governor said that if nothing else, his stand has pushed the issue
of decriminalizing drug use into the national forum.

“I am hearing a lot of support from the media,” he said. “This is an
excuse for the media to write about something that needs writing about.”

One thing is for sure: The governor of New Mexico is being taken more
seriously now than he was on his only other appearance on MSNBC.

That was in July 1997 in Roswell, and the subject was the supposed
crash 50 years earlier of an alien spacecraft in New Mexico.


Governor Gary Johnson is right to provoke a debate on drug policies in
America. By consistently taking a punitive approach to illegal drug
use we have aggravated problems, not relieved them.

Johnson feels free to acknowledge this fact, perhaps because he
doesn’t plan to run for office again. If other politicians were more
honest, they would admit the same thing. Certainly they have enough
information to understand that the whole war on drugs has been an
exercise in failure, with drugs and their sellers gaining power, while
individual Americans have been losing their civil liberties. Most
politicians pretend not to understand the real issues in the way
Johnson understands them because they see such a discussion as risky.
However, the risk the drug war poses to the country is much greater
than the value of any single politician’s career. And I suspect as
more politicians offer views like Johnson, they will find broad
support among the public.

Sooner or later we must turn away from zero-tolerance, tough-on-drugs
policies. I hope it happens before we approach the level of complete
self-destruction. Thanks to truly brave leaders like Governor Johnson,
we at least have a chance of making the change sooner rather than later.

Stephen Young

IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone

Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it
at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the
same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work.


Additional resources to help you in your letter writing efforts:

Prepared by Stephen Young – Focus
Alert Specialist