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June 8, 2001

Narco News 2001

Mr. Johnson Goes

To Mexico

Governor of New Mexico Seeks Meeting

With Mexican President Vicente Fox

Gary Johnson, Governor of New Mexico:

The Decriminalization of Drugs:
"An Alternative Combat Policy"

By JIM CASON and DAVID BROOKS, Correspondents

The 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 News Bulletin

Albuquerque, 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 the problem.

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, very helpful."

"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.



"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 issue."

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 said.

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.


According 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 this problem.

Demilitarizing the Borders of Information