Drug Message Taken to Lawyers 

Drug Message Taken to Lawyers 
Posted by FoM on May 02, 2000 at 07:42:53 PT
By Bruce Daniels, Journal Staff Writer
Source: ABQjournal
  Gov. Gary Johnson, described by his hosts as "New Mexico's poster child for freedom of speech," got a half-standing ovation from more than 200 attorneys, judges and others at the Law Day luncheon Monday in Albuquerque.
 Johnson, keynote speaker at the annual luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, was warmly received for pushing alternatives to what he calls the "miserable failure" of America's war on drugs.  But the reception was somewhat cooler when Johnson defended his 51/2-year administration's 540 vetoes, strong support for school vouchers, push for lower taxes and "vacating" of consent decrees governing treatment of the developmentally disabled, children in foster care and prison inmates.  Johnson also cited the state lottery, Sunday liquor sales and his belief in "Indian sovereignty" as examples of how his administration has met the theme of this year's Law Day theme: "freedom, diversity and democracy."  Johnson repeated his controversial call for legalizing marijuana and adopting "harm-reduction" strategies for heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, LSD and other illegal drugs.  "The No. 1 message is 'don't do drugs;' it's a bad choice," said Johnson, a self-described "health nut" who doesn't think people should drink alcohol or smoke and even thinks "there's something insidious about sugar."  But Johnson said he believes laws can be revamped and strategies developed to deal with drug use, which he said "is a medical problem and not a criminal problem."  Last year, Johnson said, health problems from tobacco killed 450,000 people, while alcohol killed 150,000 and legal prescription drugs killed 100,000. Those figures compared to 3,000 who died as a result of using heroin or cocaine.  Yet, 1.6 million people were arrested last year for using illegal drugs, half of them for marijuana, Johnson said.  A disproportionate number of those arrested were Hispanic or black and that's "terribly, terribly discriminatory," Johnson said.  In his calls for reform, Johnson said "getting rid of federal mandatory sentencing (for drug crimes) would be a logical first step."  But under his reform ideas, it would "never be legal to do drugs and do crime" and "it would never be legal for kids to do drugs or for adults to sell to kids ... never, ever," Johnson said.  The crime and violence associated with illegal drugs is related more to its prohibition than to its actual use, Johnson said.  In a brief question-and-answer period, Albuquerque criminal defense attorney Randi McGinn said she "applauded" Johnson for his "courageous stand on drugs."  She asked whether Johnson would agree to a moratorium on the death penalty, similar to that recently declared by Illinois Gov. George Ryan after several Death Row inmates had been exonerated, The governor said, "absolutely"  if such a moratorium were "based on innocence."  But the five men on New Mexico's Death Row are guilty, Johnson said.  Meanwhile, longtime anti-death penalty advocate Cathy Ansheles, executive director of the New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association in Santa Fe, was honored at Monday's luncheon with the Liberty Bell Award.  The award is presented annually to a nonlawyer who has contributed to public understanding of constitutional issues and has been of outstanding service to the law and the legal community. Published; May 2, 2000Copyright  1997 - 2000 Albuquerque JournalRelated Articles & Web Site:Governor Gary Johnson's Home Page Schools Class On His Drug Stance Sold on Drug War Johnson Cuts Drug Censorship
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