Gary Johnson on Drugs
Former Republican NM Governor
Harm-reduction: health issue rather than criminal issue
Q: You say we should tax and legalize marijuana. How far would you go in legalizing drugs?
A: As governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost-benefit analysis. Using that as a criteria: half of what we spend on law enforcement, the courts, and the
prisons is drug-related. And to what end? We're arresting 1.8 million people a year in this country. We now have 2.3 million people behind bars. We have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. If people look at it, they'll see that
90% of the drug problem is prohibition-related, not use-related. That's not to discount the problems with use and abuse, but that ought to be the focus. I advocate legalizing marijuana: control it; regulate it; and tax it. It'll never be legal for kids t
smoke pot or buy pot; It'll never be legal to do harm while smoking pot. When it comes to all other drugs, I advocate harm-reduction strategies, which is looking at the drug problem first as a health issue rather than as a criminal justice issue.
Source: 2011 GOP primary debate in South Carolina
, May 5, 2011
Drug policy today parallels Prohibition in the 1920's
The parallels between drug policy today and Prohibition in the 1920's are obvious, as are the lessons our nation learned. Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and
micro-breweries aren't protecting their turf with machine guns. It's time to apply that thinking to marijuana. By making it a legal, regulated product, availability can be restricted, under-age use curtailed, enforcement/court/incarceration costs reduced
and the profit removed from a massive underground and criminal economy.
By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco--regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use--America will be better off. Alcohol Prohibition (1920-1933) had only a minimal
effect on the desire of Americans to drink but pushing alcohol underground had other effects: overdose deaths, gang violence, and other prohibition-related harms increased dramatically during the Prohibition years.
Source: Campaign website, garyjohnson2012.com, "Issues"
, May 2, 2011
War on Drugs is a miserable failure; $6M for treatment
California and Arizona have gone the furthest in decriminalizing non-violent drug use, raising the issue’s profile natioannaly and spurring about 10 other states this year to consider a similar philosophical shift. Arguing that the multibillion-dollar
drug war has been a failure, legislatures in New York, Hawaii, Arkansas, and elsewhere are considering revisions to mandatory sentence laws for low-level drug offenders and may provide millions of dollars to drug diversion programs.
Last month, the
New Mexico legislature approved five drug bills proposed by Republican Gov. Gary Johnson, an ardent supporter of decriminalizing drugs. Included in the package are measures that will allocate $6 million to expand treatment services, legal protections for
syringe sales, and restoring voting rights for felons who have served their time. “The war on drugs is a miserable failure,” Johnson said. “50% of the money for prisons and courts is spent on drugs. What we’re doing isn’t working.”
Source: V. Dion Haynes, Chicago Tribune, p. 6
, Apr 9, 2001
More federal funding for all aspects of Drug War.
Johnson adopted the National Governors Association policy:
To reduce the presence of illegal drugs, drug-related organized crime, and the adverse effects of drug and alcohol abuse in society requires a comprehensive strategy involving federal, state, and local governments. The Governors believe that one of the most severe public health threats is the recent rise in substance abuse among children.
Source: NGA policy HR-13: Combating and Controlling Substance Abuse 00-NGA2 on Aug 15, 2000
- The Federal Role
The profits from illicit drug trafficking can be effectively used to help state efforts to dry up the demand for these drugs. The nation’s Governors urge the President and Congress to fully fund drug and alcohol abuse education, drug courts, treatment, prevention, and law enforcement efforts, including the initiative to combat and clean up methamphetamine production laboratories, at the state and local levels of government.
- Intensified Eradication and Interdiction
Federal funding for use of the National Guard in drug and border enforcement deserves continued support. The Governors urge
the President and Congress to utilize the role of U.S. military forces in interdiction efforts.
- High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program.
The HIDTA program provides additional federal funds to those areas to help federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure and joint initiatives to dismantle drug trafficking organizations. Governors support the HIDTA initiative and urge Congress to continue supporting the program.
- The Federal Role in Reducing International Drug Trafficking.
The nation’s Governors urge the Administration and Congress to significantly tighten procedures for certifying foreign countries for eligibility to receive U.S. aid based on their cooperation with U.S. surveillance, interdiction, and eradication efforts.
- Drug Legalization
The nation’s Governors believe illicit drug legalization is not a viable alternative, either as a philosophy or as a practical reality.
States should make drug policy, not feds.
Johnson co-sponsored the Western Governors' Association resolution:
Source: WGA Policy Resolution 01 - 05: Drug Policy Summit 01-WGA05 on Aug 14, 2001
- Western Governors agree that states, not the federal government, are in the best position to understand the myriad of drug related issues facing their citizens and to initiate and implement drug policy strategies that will combat the substance abuse problems facing their communities.
- Western Governors support effective law enforcement initiatives and behavioral accountability. Partnerships between enforcement and treatment programs (or efforts) need to be strengthened and supported to enable behavioral changes.
- Western Governors recognize the escalating costs of incarceration and welcome effective common sense options within the criminal justice system that result in lessened drug abuse, healthier communities, and decreased criminal activity.
- Western Governors appreciate the unique problems confronting our communities from increased production, distribution and abuse of methamphetamines. The Governors will continue to attack this problem aggressively on several fronts, including enforcement of current criminal laws and expansion of treatment and intervention programs.
- Western Governors support sentencing laws that retain individual accountability for criminal conduct while administering proportional punishments that are fair and just.
- Western Governors support efforts to staunch the proliferation of illegal intravenous drug use. Common sense strategies aimed at protecting communities against discarded and potentially contaminated injection drug paraphernalia should be explored. Furthermore, the Governors encourage reform initiatives that will help and encourage injection drug users to obtain information, treatment, detoxification and social services.
Page last updated: Nov 23, 2011