Unlikely Advocate Calls for Legalizing Marijuana 

Unlikely Advocate Calls for Legalizing Marijuana 
Posted by CN Staff on May 24, 2002 at 08:32:21 PT
By Mark Larabee
Source: Oregon Live
The Republican governor is no softy when it comes to crime, either. He's built two prisons since taking office in 1994. Yet this fiscal conservative who says he's vetoed 750 bills to curb spending, has brought credibility to an unlikely cause. He thinks marijuana should be legal. In fact, he thinks all illegal drugs should be decriminalized, although the idea, he admits, is one the political powers of this country are not keen on. 
Impossible? Not so fast, Johnson says. He and others are throwing hard-hitting punches in the war against the war on drugs, and they're being heard. He discussed the issue at a Cascade Policy Institute luncheon Thursday at Portland's Benson Hotel, receiving two standing ovations. Former Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt praised Johnson for pushing the envelope. "He's been opposed by every drug czar, but he's broadened the issue," Goldschmidt said. Johnson's main point is that the multibillion-dollar war on drugs is an "absolute, miserable failure." He wants to get one thing straight: He abhors drugs. He also doesn't drink, runs triathlons and plans to climb Mount Everest. His main message to kids: "Don't do drugs. Don't do them." But he can't get over the fact that $18 billion is spent on federal anti-drug efforts every year, and "Drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available than when this war started." Spending that money on treatment and education would be more effective and lower the cost of jailing nonviolent drug offenders, Johnson said. "The problem of drugs is a health problem, not a criminal justice problem," he said. "Half of what we spend on courts, prison and law enforcement in this country is drug-related." Half of the 1.6 million drug-related arrests each year are for marijuana. And people of color are seven times more likely than whites to go to jail for drug offenses. "After 20-plus years of zero-tolerance policies and increasingly harsh criminal penalties, we have over half a million people behind bars on drug charges nationwide," Johnson wrote for a May paper issued by the Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland think tank. The Bush administration opposes legalization. During a recent Portland visit, John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Bush wants a combination of treatment, enforcement and education to reduce drug use by 25 percent in the next five years. Chuck Karl, director of Oregon's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, which oversees $2.5 million for anti-drug police efforts, said legalization makes no sense. "I don't think we ought to make it more available because it will lead to more addiction," he said. "The increases in addiction will lead to an increase in economic costs." Karl also thinks decriminalization is the biggest drug threat to Oregonians, despite 590 methamphetamine lab seizures in 2001. Norm Frink, a Multnomah County chief deputy district attorney, said most drug offenders in Oregon don't go to jail unless they are habitual dealers who have committed other crimes. "You would have to beg to go to the penitentiary on a possession case," he said. Johnson is a realist. He thinks legalizing marijuana is possible but will take at least 15 years. But he said small steps have been taken. In the past year, most law enforcement have abandoned tougher stances. And the move to abolish mandatory minimum drug sentences has gained ground. Dr. Phillip Leveque, a semi-retired osteopath who has authorized about 40 percent of Oregon's 3,600 approved medical marijuana applications, said pot-smoking is a reality the political establishment has ignored. "I hope there were enough legislative officials, here today, district attorneys and police -- the people who are at the opposite end of the use issue -- to get a little enlightenment," he said. Note: New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is no pothead. Source: Oregon Live.comAuthor: Mark LarabeePublished: May 24, 2002Copyright: 2002 Oregon Live LLCWebsite: Articles & Web Site: Cascade Policy Institute's He Smokin'? War Mutineer Republican Wages Lone Battle to Legalize Drugs
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on May 24, 2002 at 09:39:13 PT
590 speed labs in one year and they still want to stop people from enjoying the herb! They probably only busted less than a tenth of the labs in the state - if I had 5,000 speed labs in my state, I would be advertising MJ on every street corner! How many women are getting beaten up every night in Eastern Oregon trailer parks while jacked up on speed? It's sad. 
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