June 8, 2001
Narco News 2001
of New Mexico Seeks Meeting
Mexican President Vicente Fox
Governor of New Mexico:
Decriminalization of Drugs:
"An Alternative Combat Policy"
CASON and DAVID BROOKS, Correspondents
national daily La Jornada, Mexico City
Publisher's Note: New
Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is in Mexico today and this weekend
for the annual meeting of border state governors, this year in
Gulf of Mexico port city of Tampico, Tamaulipas. The governors
of Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Taumaulipas
are there together with those of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico's
Johnson. (California Governor Gray Davis is absent, claiming
that he is busy with his state's energy problem, which has provoked
no small amount of surprise from Mexican leaders to whom the
California governor and President George W. Bush have both pressured
to export electricity to California.)
A year ago, Johnson raised
the issue of drug legalization at this meeting, and recently
won a convert: Chihuahua
Governor Patricio Martinez, who called for legalization in April. The Narco News Bulletin congratulates
Governor Johnson for his persistence and wishes him further success.
Translated by The Narco
New Mexico: Gary Johnson, the conservative
Republican governor of New Mexico, reiterated his call in favor
of the legalization of illicit drugs in this country and suggested
that President Vicente Fox and the governors of border states
ought to consider an alternative policy to "the war on drugs"
that includes decriminalization to reduce the social costs of
In an exclusive interview with La Jornada
shortly before the annual meeting of the governors of U.S.
and Mexican border states this week in Tampico, Governor Johnson
said that he has already spoken with various Mexican political
leaders about his legalization ideas and that in the next meeting
he will propose various concrete initiatives to change the focus
of the war on drugs along the border. He says that he feels that
the recent comments by Vicente Fox about legalization are "very,
"Two years ago, in the meeting of
border governors, I spoke about the idea that we should be speaking
in a different way on the theme of illicit drugs, since already,
in my opinion, the border is militarized and the problems it
has are, to a great degree, due to the way in which we confront
the drug problem," explained Johnson.
THAN A POLICE MATTER
"Our goals?" he indicated,
"They ought to be to reduce death, illness and crime related
with drugs. Nobody disagrees with that and we can discuss a different
method so that later, and together, Mexico and the United States
will see this problem as public health matter, and not as a police
The conservative Johnson, who is considered
to be a friend of President George W. Bush, believes that the
efforts to combat the damages provoked by drugs through a focus
on public security has failed, and that now a more rational policy
must be promoted.
The proof of this failure of the current
anti-narcotics policies, he said, is that the prison population
in the United States has doubled in the past decade, as well
as the public cost of combating drugs, but that today the drugs
are cheaper, more pure and available than ever.
"I believe that the people would
be surprised to know how many people are arrested each year accused
of drug crimes," Johnson commented to La Jornada.
"More than 1,600,000 are arrested for (crimes connected
with) drugs each year, and half of them are arrested for marijuana."
The statistics of the federal government indicate that two-thirds
of those arrested for marijuana are not accused of selling the
drug, but only for possession. "These laws are terribly
discriminatory. Half of those arrested for marijuana are Hispanics.
But Hispanics don't make up half the users."
All the facts, Governor Johnson argued,
are convincing more politicians in this country to consider alternatives
to the drug war. This combat, he said, "is a failure, we
need to discuss alternatives, and one of them that has to be
included is legalization."
This year in New Mexico, the governor
promoted a project to eliminate criminal penalties for possession
of less than an ounce of marijuana and to put more resources
into treatment programs for drug users. Although the measure
to partially legalize marijuana was not approved this year, various
bills of the same sentiment were approved by the state legislature.
Also, measures to decriminalize marijuana for medical uses have
been approved by nine states.
The governor declared that he has discussed
these kinds of solutions with the politicians of his country
(including President Bush) and with his counterparts in Mexico.
"We don't have a militarized border because of undocumented
immigrants. It is the war on drugs that is militarizing the border,"
He stressed that the ideal solution would
be to have an open border, and admitted that the construction
of more walls on the border has not stopped the flow of immigrants
nor of drugs.
Johnson commented that he has exchanged
these ideas with Patricio Martinez, governor of Chihuahua, during
the last meeting of border governors and that he recently wrote
a letter to Martinez after he expressed the need to explore alternatives
like those proposed by Johnson. "I've been particularly
pleased with the comments by Patricio Martinez, who said that
he would like his state to examine the model that we are adopting
in New Mexico and the option of legalization."
In the interview with La Jornada,
Johnson also underlined that he "was very pleased"
by the recent declarations of President Fox, in which he expressed
his interest in drug legalization as an option that could work
if it were adopted by various countries simultaneously.
TO MEET WITH FOX
to the Associated Press, last March
20th, when Fox was asked whether legalization is the only way
to win the drug war, he responded: "That's true, that's
true." But he conditioned it by adding that "when the
day comes to adopt the alternative of suspending punishment for
the use of drugs, it will have to be done by the entire world,
because we won't win anything if Mexico does it alone, and the
production and consumption of drugs continues (in other countries)."Johnson
said that he hopes to be able to speak more about these ideas
with Fox, possibly during the governor's conference, planned
for this weekend.
The governor said that the prohibition
of drugs is a policy that only generates a black market, violence,
corruption, crime and damages to public health. He recalls that
this was the experience with the prohibition of alcohol in the
United States in the 1920s. By decriminalizing, he argues, the
business of narco-trafficking would end and government resources
could be dedicated to a more effective method than that which
is today centered upon police, jails and militarization, toward
treatment and reducing harm to public health, in order to solve
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