Gov. Preaches to Choir on Drug Reform 

  Gov. Preaches to Choir on Drug Reform 

Posted by FoM on April 20, 2001 at 08:05:58 PT
By Michael Coleman, Journal Washington Bureau 
Source: Albuquerque Journal 

Gov. Gary Johnson paid a visit to the heart of the national pro-marijuana movement Thursday and vowed to keep fighting for drug law reform in New Mexico. The Republican governor, who over the past two years has become a national leader in the drug legalization crusade, spoke Thursday at the annual convention of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.  At least 200 NORML supporters, gathered at a fancy downtown hotel and wearing everything from tie-dyed T-shirts to business suits, gave the governor a warm reception, especially when he talked about his efforts to change New Mexico's drug laws.
 Johnson offered about a dozen drug reform proposals during the latest legislative session, but only a handful were signed into law. The governor said he will push for even more reform during the remaining two years of his term.  He argued that his proposals forced New Mexico leaders to have a "more advanced" drug reform debate than any other state.  "I'm not viewing what happened in New Mexico as a setback at all," Johnson said. "Hopefully we will revive the (failed legislation) and then be open to new pieces."  During his speech, Johnson outlined his drug views, now familiar to many New Mexicans. He stressed that drug laws account for half of the nation's spending on courts, jails and law enforcement, and suggested that money could be put to much better use.  An admitted former recreational drug user, Johnson told NORML supporters — many of whom who openly admit their marijuana use — that he hasn't done drugs or alcohol in at least 13 years. And he urged the audience to quit smoking pot and drinking.  But he said most marijuana users are unjustly persecuted.  "Most people don't want to admit it, but for the most part people who smoke marijuana are responsible users of marijuana," Johnson said. "They choose when and where to smoke it, and they are not doing any harm to anyone else."  John Gilmore fit right in with many of those attending the NORML conference in Washington this week — long hair, long beard, wire-rim glasses and tie-dyed socks under Teva sandals.  But the San Francisco resident is not a stereotypical pot-smoking hippie. He's a multimillionaire computer mogul who helped launch Sun Microsystems in California two decades ago. Gilmore said it's "refreshing" that a Republican governor is leading the drug reform effort. He also said his own life is proof that drug use doesn't always doom people to failure.  "Smoking marijuana doesn't turn you into a monster," Gilmore said. "The vast majority of people who use illegal drugs are responsible citizens who are keeping their lives together."  Johnson's trip to Washington was paid for by NORML. But the state of New Mexico will pick up a tab of at least $5,200 for his security detail's air fare and hotel stays during his nearly two-week trip, said governor's attorney David McCumber.  The governor also was scheduled for a flurry of national television appearances, including "Meet the Press" on Sunday.  Johnson denied that the drug issue is distracting him from the job voters elected him to do. He said failed drug policy robs the state of money that could be used for education, health care improvements and more effective law enforcement.  "Arguably it's the biggest issue in any state," Johnson said.  Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., said she disagrees with Johnson's drug views, but that he has a right to air them.  "It's a free country," Wilson said in a telephone interview. "I disagree with him on this issue. I think it sends the wrong message to kids."Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)Author: Michael Coleman, Journal Washington BureauPublished: Friday, April 20, 2001Copyright: 2001 Albuquerque JournalContact: opinion abqjournal.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Sites:NORML Gary Johnson's Home Page Pol & The Pot Rouses Choir With Drug Stand of New Mexico Urges End To War on Drugs Articles - Governor Gary Johnson 

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