NORML's News Bulletin - January 4, 2001

NORML's News Bulletin - January 4, 2001
Posted by FoM on January 05, 2001 at 08:14:17 PT
NM Drug Advisory Group Recommend Decriminalization
Source: NORML
The current "war on drugs" is a failure and current drug laws should focus on prevention, as opposed to incarceration. That was the conclusion of New Mexico's Drug Policy Advisory Group as they presented their findings to Governor Gary Johnson today.   The advisory group, appointed by the governor last May, called for the end of criminal sanctions for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana by anyone over 18 years old. Those who smoke marijuana in public would still face a civil fine. 
 The advisory group explained in the report, "Having reviewed carefully the information available on marijuana and its effects, and having heard from various representatives of law enforcement, corrections and the courts, we believe that taking this step will result in greater availability of resources to respond to more serious crimes without any increased risks to public safety."   The committee also endorsed the medical use of marijuana, by seriously ill patients, and recommended the legislature revise the "Lynn Pierson Act," a long dormant New Mexico medical marijuana law originally enacted in 1978 that allowed for the medical use of marijuana in research settings. "We recommend that the Lynn Pierson Act be amended to allow physicians to recommend and patients to access medical marijuana when medically appropriate, and to allow for a registry of patients who are approved for this treatment and their caregivers," wrote the committee.   "We applaud the advisory group for their two specific recommendations regarding marijuana policy," said Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director. "First, they recognize the importance of permitting the medical use of marijuana. Nine states currently permit seriously ill patients to use marijuana if their physician recommends it to relieve pain and suffering. It would be unconscionable to continue to deny an effective medication to those who need it."   Stroup continued, "Second, the Governor's Drug Policy Advisory Group joins a long list of prestigious commissions and study groups that have reached the conclusion that we should stop arresting responsible marijuana smokers, including the National Commission on Marijuana Use and Drug Abuse (the Shaffer Commission) (1972) in this country, the LeDain Commission (1972) in Canada and the Wooten Report (1968) in England. Millions of mainstream, middle-class Americans smoke marijuana, and most of them are good citizens who work hard, raise families and contribute to their communities. It's time we stropped treating them like criminals."   Throughout the report the advisory group denounced the current methods of drug education and the plethora of false information disseminated by federal agencies that help perpetuate the failed "war on drugs."   "We would like to emphasize an overriding concern that surfaced repeatedly as we examined the information available on these topics," wrote Advisory Committee Chair Woody Smith, a retired state judge, in a transmittal letter to the governor. "In our society today, much of our drug policy is based on misleading and even patently false information about illegal drugs, the physical and psychological effects of illegal drugs and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of current drug policies. Even more disturbing, the advisory group determined that false information frequently comes from sources that we expect to be reliable, including our own federal government. When incorrect information is accepted as true and policies are based upon that false information, the resulting harm experienced by those who suffer from drug addiction and their families, by criminal justice agencies, and by the public is great."   "We believe that it is our ethical imperative to reject false data and misleading information no matter what the source, and to increase the availability of accurate and meaningful information to all New Mexicans and policy makers."   The committee further recommended amending existing criminal statutes to reduce first and second drug possession offenses to misdemeanors with automatic probation and substance abuse treatment rather than jail time; and the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.   The report said, "New Mexico should begin immediately to place first priority on enforcement of laws prohibiting violent crimes, followed by enforcement of laws prohibiting property crimes. When law enforcement officers are given the impossible task of stopping all drug use and all drug buying and selling, they are less able to enforce laws intended to protect communities from crimes such as assault, rape and murder. A reallocation of resources that prioritizes prevention, investigation and enforcement of these violent crimes over drug crimes would better serve and protect the citizens of New Mexico, would improve morale within the ranks of law enforcement and would increase public support and respect for the hard work that law enforcement, courts and correctional officers do every day."  The implementation of effective prevention and science-based drug education; effective treatment programs covered by Medicaid; and harm reduction policies and programs were also recommended by the committee.   "This is a thoughtful report which makes a convincing case for a harm reduction approach that relies on education, prevention and treatment over prison and other punitive approaches," Stroup said. "They have provided a useful blueprint for a more effective and humane drug policy for the state. It's now time for the New Mexico legislature to move forward with a review and overhaul of their marijuana laws."   For more information please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Executive Director at (202) 483-5500.NORML's News Bulletin Index 2001 Conference - Washington, DC - April 19-21, 2001 Article & Web Sites:Governor Gary Johnson's Home Page Mexico Drug Policy Foundation Mexico Thumbs It's Nose at The War on Drugs Prohibition, Another Failure CannabisNews NORML Archives Articles - Governor Gary Johnson
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