New Mexico Gov. Calls War On Drugs a Failure

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Washington ( - Following speeches in New Mexico last week calling for drug legalization, that state's governor told a think tank in Washington Tuesday, the war on drugs is an absolute failure.

Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM) told a drug conference at the CATO institute, "What I am talking about here are the police. What I am talking about are courts and jails. We're spending 50 billion dollars a year, that's federal and state money. And for the amount of money that we are putting into the war on drugs, I suggest it is an absolute failure."

Johnson explained that if drugs were legalized, drug use would actually decline. However, Johnson doesn't want his position to be construed that he is pro-drugs. "I'm against drugs. Don't do drugs. Drugs are a real handicap. Don't do alcohol, don't do tobacco. They're a real handicap." Johnston also said he believes that 100 percent of all substance abuse starts with milk, but didn't explain the connection.

Kids should be told the truth about drugs, Johnson said. "You tell them that if you legalize it, you know, control it, regulate it, tax it. If you legalize we might actually have a healthier society. Also tell them (kids), that drugs are a bad choice, don't do drugs."

However with drug legalization, Johnson said, there has to be a whole new set of laws to accompany such as legalized scenario. "You can't do drugs if you're under 21-years-old. You can't sell drugs to kids. I say as an employer, you should be able to discriminate against a drug user. You should be able to conduct drug tests," Johnson said. Those who do drugs while driving should have the same punishment as those who drive while intoxicated (DWI), according to Johnson.

Johnson believes a new set of drug laws would enable law enforcement to focus on "other crimes that are being committed." One example Johnson gave was litter. "Things would be cleaner because they would be able enforce litter laws, speeding laws, burglaries, actual crime being committed. Actual quality of life laws that have been passed, that right now, law enforcement doesn't have the opportunity to enforce."

"Seventy-five percent of the people today who are doing illegal drugs are employed," Johnson said, "I just don't think that we can continue to lock up America on bad choices. Alcohol killed 150-thousand people last year. I'm not talking about drinking and driving. I'm just talking about the health effects of alcohol killed 150-thousand people last year. The health effects of tobacco killed 450-thousand people last year. I don't know of anybody that died from a marijuana overdose, but yet I'm sure there are a few that smoked enough marijuana to probably die from it," Johnson said.

On comparing alcohol and tobacco to drugs, Johnson said, "Drugs, of course, end us up in jail. I think there's a real hypocrisy to that. How can alcohol and drugs be legal? How can alcohol and tobacco be legal with what we know about alcohol and tobacco, it just doesn't fit. Marijuana is never going to have the devastating effects on us that alcohol has had on us. I think alcohol abuse will actually decline, if marijuana were legalized because there would be a substance choice. I'll just bet that medically, scientifically that that bears itself out." Johnson's remarks drew some applause.

Johnson said, "A legalization scenario isn't going to be like prohibition. When prohibition ended, there were advertisements on television right away that say, hey, drink and be merry it's cool. I don't see this like tobacco either, where for so long, we saw advertisements that said hey, smoking's good for your health. I mean that's what we basically saw. I realize there are constitutional questions, but I see advertising campaigns to discourage drug use. I don't see the advertising campaigns today as being honest and that's part of the problem."

Prohibition did not end until 1933. It began on January 16th, 1920, when the United States of America ratified the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. The History of Television, in its latest edition, said regular television programs were not broadcast in the United States until 1939. The broadcast took place at the opening of the World's Fair in New York City. The first color television programs were tested in the United States in 1941 but were not formally introduced until 1953.

Johnson said he favors legalization of drugs instead of decriminalization. "I think decriminalization is kind of a muddy term. It turns its back on half the problem that we're facing which is to get the entire economy of drugs above the line." Legalization, Johnson believes, means control, "the ability to tax, ability to regulate, ability to educate. Make drugs a controlled substance just like alcohol."

Johnson drew laughter when he said, "Let the government regulate it (drugs), let the government grow it, let the government manufacture it, distribute it, market it, if that doesn't lead to decreased drug use I don't know what will."