Speakers Have Wary Words for Pot-Law Reformers

Speakers Have Wary Words for Pot-Law Reformers
Posted by FoM on June 01, 2001 at 07:40:16 PT
By Steve Terrell,The New Mexican 
Source: Santa Fe New Mexican
State lawmakers from both parties warned several hundred drug-war critics Thursday that political repercussions for backing Gov. Gary Johnson's drug-reform bills are likely and urged the audience to get involved. "You've got to protect your champions," said Rep. Joe Thompson, R-Albuquerque, speaking at a panel discussion at the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation's annual conference at the Hyatt Regency hotel.
Thompson said he expects primary-election opposition next year because he carried several Johnson drug bills in the Legislature. He added jokingly, "I'm not going to ask you for money right now."Thompson, a two-term legislator, said later that last week he learned of a probable Republican opponent who is planning to make an issue of Thompson's role as a sponsor of drug-reform bills. Thompson declined to name his potential opponent."It's not a good commentary on the two-party system, but the extreme margins in both parties tend to drive the agenda," Thompson told the conference. "These people are tough. You have to be prepared to go to your base and explain your position."Thompson admitted that he was initially hesitant last year when Johnson asked him to carry a medical-marijuana bill to allow sufferers of serious diseases to use marijuana to treat symptoms.However, he eventually agreed to carry that bill and several others.Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, who carried several of Johnson's bills on the Senate side, said Thompson's concerns are real. "How are elected officials who back this reform going to survive?"McSorley referred to heroes of the American Revolutionary War, saying, "We might not be the General Washingtons in this revolution, but we are the Swamp Foxes. We are fighting a swamp battle, and we have to survive."If officials who "stick their neck out" by backing drug-law reform go down in defeat at the ballot box, this will make it more difficult for other politicians to come out against the drug war, McSorley said.McSorley is not up for re-election until 2004.However, Johnson, who also spoke on the panel, noted that going public against the drug war does not always have dire political consequences.He gave the example of state Republican Chairman John Dendahl, who came under fire from Congressional Republicans and state Rep. Ron Godbey, R-Albuquerque, for embracing Johnson's drug-reform package earlier this year.The audience cheered when Johnson told them Dendahl last month won re-election to the party chairmanship, defeating Godbey by better than 2-to-1.Earlier at a press conference Johnson said he intends to introduce drug-reform measures that didn't make it through the past legislative session during next year's session.Among this package are bills that would decriminalize marijuana, to do away with mandatory habitual-offender sentences in drug cases, to send first- and second-time drug-possession offenders to treatment rather than prison and to make forfeitures of vehicles, money and other assets more difficult in drug cases.Three of Johnson's bills made it through the Legislature - a $9.8 million drug-treatment and education package, a bill allowing police officers and others to administer drugs such as Narcan to people overdosing on heroin, and a bill that allows pharmacists to sell syringes.McSorley praised Johnson for backing such reforms. However, he brought up a sore point that arose between him and the governor during the session - the fact that Johnson's original package did not include any money for treatment."This was probably the biggest strategic mistake we made in the last session," McSorley said. "When you start reforming drug laws in any state you have to couple it with treatment and education."Johnson - who had already left the room when McSorley spoke - eventually came forth with the $9.8 million treatment bill. But, as he did during the legislative session, McSorley said that amount was far too low. McSorley said he favored $40 million for treatment and education.Although he didn't speak to McSorley's desire for more treatment money, state Health Secretary Alex Valdez, another panelist, agreed with the senator on the the necessity of including treatment funds."If you do not have commitment to treatment, any discussion of drug reform will fall on deaf ears as it should," Valdez said. Source: Santa Fe New Mexican (NM)Author: Steve Terrell, The New MexicanPublished: June 01, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Santa Fe New MexicanContact: letters sfnewmexican.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:TLC - DPF Emphasized At Conference Allies Fund a Growing War on the War on Drugs's U.S. Poster Boy - National Post
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Comment #1 posted by Sudaca on June 01, 2001 at 08:49:04 PT
the treatment funds
as long as that money doesn't end up financing more spawns of the Straights.. which may happen given the present adminsitrations inclinations and loyalties
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