Dope Debate

Dope Debate
Posted by FoM on September 11, 2001 at 09:03:02 PT
By Steve Terrell, The New Mexican
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican 
At a raucous debate Monday, frequently interrupted by applause and sometimes boos, Gov. Gary Johnson and new Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Asa Hutchinson butted heads over drug policy.Johnson - who has become a nationally recognized advocate for radically reforming drug laws - reiterated his belief that marijuana should be legalized and that authorities should emphasize "harm reduction" policies on the abuse of harder drugs, focusing on saving lives instead of making arrests.
"Prohibition of drugs is doing more harm than the drugs themselves," Johnson said. Hutchinson, a former Arkansas congressman and former federal prosecutor, stressed his philosophy: Enforcing drug laws is an important component in combating the drug problem. Hutchinson, recently appointed to the position by President Bush, stressed that legalization would lead to more drug addiction."If we want to discourage drug use, how do we do it?" Hutchinson said. "Our laws should reflect those values."Although neither man budged from his basic position, Hutchinson agreed with Johnson that it was unfair that under federal law a college student can be denied a federal loan because of a past drug conviction - but not a murder conviction."That's something Congress is going to have to look at," he said.He also said Bush had ordered agencies to stop racial profiling in the enforcement of drug laws.Both Johnson and Hutchinson are Republicans. In the audience were two Republican leaders on opposite sides of the issue - state GOP Chairman John Dendahl, who backs Johnson on drug-law reform, and Johnson critic state Rep. Ron Godbey of Cedar Crest.The debate, held at The University of New Mexico, was organized by a National Public Radio show, Justice Talking. NPR will broadcast the event later this year. C-SPAN also videotaped the debate and will show it at a later date.The audience of about 300 seemed to have more Johnson supporters.Godbey quipped after the debate, "If they'd have brought in drug-sniffing dogs, that would have cleared about half the room."However, both sides had their partisans. And despite pleas from the producer of the radio show not to cheer or jeer, both sides in the audience became vocal at several points in the debate.At one point, drug-reform proponents in the crowd began booing Hutchinson, who had just made a pointed remark about Johnson failing to convince the state Legislature to decriminalize marijuana.Although he did not scold the crowd for the outburst, Johnson took the mike to say he appreciated Hutchinson's coming to New Mexico for the debate.Justice Talking host Margot Adler said the only debate on the show that got as emotional as the Johnson-Hutchinson square-off was one held in Florida concerning the 2000 presidential election.Early in the debate, Johnson, who admitted he was nervous, went blank while making a point, saying, "I just lost my train of thought." Afterward he told a reporter, "I was just thinking of about 15 things I wanted to say all at once."More than once Hutchinson brought up the recent arrest and extradition of accused Colombian drug lord Fabio Ochoa, citing that as an example of progress in the nation's anti-drug effort.At this Johnson scoffed, saying other drug kingpins will rise to take Ochoa's place. "Cutting his head off just creates 10 other heads," Johnson said.Johnson also said the federal effort to seize drugs being smuggled over the nation's borders are "pissing in the wind.""I believe that if the government were not involved at all, the problem wouldn't be any worse. In fact, you might see more consistency in the quantity and quality of the drugs and reduce deaths (from overdoses)."Hutchinson, while admitting agents only seize a fraction of the drugs being smuggled across the nation's borders, said drugs would enter "unimpededly" if the government didn't increase the risk to drug traffickers.Johnson said he favors regulating marijuana like cigarettes.Hutchinson responded, "If you like what the tobacco companies did in marketing to our teens and marketing to adults in selling their product, wait till they get hold of marijuana cigarettes."Hutchison tried several times to pin Johnson down on whether hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin should be legalized.Johnson wouldn't take the bait. All he would say was that the government should focus on "harm reduction."Hutchison said he favors a drug-court program in which nonviolent drug offenders are placed in treatment programs - with criminal penalties hanging over their heads if they do not comply.Johnson argued that most marijuana-smokers do not belong in treatment. He said marijuana is less harmful than alcohol."Ask anyone in law enforcement whether they'd rather go into a house where everyone is smoking marijuana or a place where everyone is drinking," he said.Before the debate, about 20 drug-reform demonstrators lined both sides of University Boulevard displaying signs with such messages as "Disband the DEA Gestapo" and "There is No Justice in the War on Drugs." Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)Author: Steve Terrell, The New MexicanPublished: September 11, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Santa Fe New MexicanContact: letters sfnewmexican.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites: Justice Talking Gary Johnson's Home Page Discuss Drug War Policy Governor Debates DEA Chief Gov. Debates Legalizing Drugs with DEA
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on September 11, 2001 at 11:52:46 PT
Thanks Sled
Hi Mike, Thank you so much. You're so dedicated. I'm proud to know you.
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Comment #1 posted by Sled on September 11, 2001 at 11:50:47 PT
The Debate - The Rest Of The Story
I was there. Hutch stuck with the usual line & the Gov. wiped thefloor with him. The crowd was overwhelmingly friendly toward the Gov.& reform. Drew strong applause for the Gov. & boos for Hutch. Anoccasional very light applause for Hutch. Only his agents & croniessupported him at all & there were only a few of them present.If anything, Hutch got laughed at more than anything & it wasn't allreformers there by any means. A lot of gray heads in the audience &they supported reform.Hutch stuck to the latest buzzwords, with "traffickers" his favorite.No doubt, he watched the movie & that's all that he came away with.IMHO, he didn't take the Gov. seriously prior to debate, didn't have aclue what the Gov.'s positions were, thought everyone there would befor his position, walked into a minefield, & stepped on every mine insight.He was flustered, completely bereft of knowledge of this subject,became red-faced a number of times, & blew the whole thing, so whatelse is new. The guy is way out of his league.I made a tape of the whole thing, even though they requested thateveryone turn of any recorders. I'm sure I'm not alone. With all thevideo cameras in evidence, I think a a clandestine copy should beavailable shortly.C-Span taped it for later broadcast & if they don't censor it heavily,you'll be very pleasantly surprised.Hutch got his ass kicked & then some.Live from the front.....Sled
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