New Mexico governor fails in home state and drug issue

As a resident of New Mexico, I was appalled when I heard that my governor would be traveling to D.C. to speak on the issue of our nation’s drug policy.

Appalled, and embarrassed. And, when I saw The Hatchet’s article (“Governor Decries U.S. Drug Policies,” Oct. 7, p. 1) on Gary Johnson’s speech, it only angered me more to think that Johnson should be considered an authority on ANY issue. Johnson is an extremist in every sense of the word. The New Mexico state legislature and all right-minded citizens of New Mexico have never taken him seriously, and I am appalled to think that anyone in D.C. – or at GW – would either.

Simply put, Johnson has done nothing for the state of New Mexico. During his term as governor, Johnson has consistently been on the wrong side of all issues and has failed (thankfully) to pass any agenda whatsoever – including his voucher plan, concealed weapons legislation, a tax plan that would have cut $300 million from the state budget, destroying services in New Mexico, cutting education funding and laying off police officers. But then he just found other ways to devastate the state, through vetoing legislation.

Johnson vetoed virtually every bill that has come across his desk, including legislation that would have provided computers for schools, senior citizen’s meals programs, early intervention health care programs for rural and children’s health care, a veterans’ cemetery honor guard, assistance to first-time home buyers, a pilot program for at-risk youth, offsetting costs of AIDS medication, medical aides training program for the developmentally disabled and legislation supported by his own wife and daughter.

The simple fact is that Johnson’s term as governor has yielded much that has caught the public’s attention – including his most recent decriminalization charade – but little that has actually moved the state forward. He vetoed more legislation in his first two terms in office than any other governor in history – chopping away at social programs and making New Mexico the worst state in the nation in which to raise a child (according to a study released by the “Children’s Rights Council”), something that Johnson called a “fun fact.”

Under Johnson, New Mexico achieved the sixth highest unemployment rate in the country and the highest poverty rate of all 50 states; 24 percent of New Mexicans live in poverty; some counties have unemployment rates as high as 28 percent. Johnson wreaked havoc on the state of New Mexico and now proposes to do it nationwide with his radical proposals.

It is not easy coming from a state where nearly 30 percent of the citizenry live in poverty and even harder when your governor is a buffoon. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised then at his latest extremist charade regarding the legalization of drugs.

In his speech, Johnson mentioned the fact that no other elected officials have been brave enough to speak openly on the issue of drug legalization because, he claims, they are too worried about hurting their reelection chances.

The fact is Johnson never spoke a word about legalization until he was safely reelected and not running for another term of office. Johnson also said that “the war on drugs is ruining lives, destroying families and taking tax dollars.”

I guess because he comes from a wealthy, all-white background in North Dakota, he simply doesn’t realize that it is the drugs that are ruining lives – not the drug war.

In fact, we are not losing the drug war. Federal agents seized 858 tons of illegal drugs along the Southwest border in 1998, a 26 percent increase over 1997, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency’s El Paso Intelligence Center.

Border Patrol agents in the El Paso sector, which includes western Texas and all of New Mexico’s southern flank, made 1,267 seizures of marijuana and cocaine in the 1999 fiscal year – a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Drugs seized during the 1999 fiscal year – which ended Sept. 30 – were valued at $257.4 million. Customs agents in the same region hauled in nearly 250,000 pounds of illegal drugs in the 11 months ending Aug. 30, roughly six times the amount seized in all of 1990.

According to U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, drug use in the nation has dropped from 25 million “current” drug users – those who had used drugs in the previous 30 days – in 1979 to 13 million nationwide in 1996.

Simply by discussing a policy of legalizing drugs, Johnson is undermining efforts to deter drug use. According to the DEA, besides parental disapproval, one of the top two reasons teens cite for the decision to abstain from drug use is fear of the law. Clearly, we need to continue the fight against drugs, working for education and rehabilitation, not legalization.

Gary Johnson came to power as part of an inevitable reaction against paternalistic government. Given his paltry record of accomplishment and non-governance, he has no right to be looked to for advice on issues of national legislation; especially with regards to drug policy. Just because he was a pot-head growing up doesn’t make him qualified to set a nationwide agenda.

There is a clear pattern here. The only way Gary Johnson has enacted any change is with his veto pen. He himself notes that none of his ideas get anywhere. There is obviously a reason for this – they’re foolish!

We can only hope that his newest “good idea” will not get anywhere as well.

-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.

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