Governor Gary Johnson will debate the new head of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration Asa Hutchinson on the topic of drug policy. The debate, "Directing America's Drug War: Which Way to a Safer Society?" will be taped for broadcast on NPR's Justice Talking this fall. Justice Talking is broadcast on public radio stations nationwide and on the Internet at www.justicetalking.org
The Johnson/Hutchinson debate will take place on Monday, September 10, 2001, at 4:00 PM at the Continuing Education Conference Center (1634 University Boulevard, NE) in Albuquerque. It is co-sponsored by KUNM Radio (89.9 FM), the University of New Mexico School of Law, and the National AIDS Brigade. The debate is free and open to the public.
"Both Governor Johnson and Mr. Hutchinson should be applauded for their participation in this debate," said Katharine Huffman, director of the New Mexico Drug Policy Project of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation. "Open discussion about our nation's drug policies has been lacking for several decades, but that's changing now."
In recent months, the public's frustration with current drug war policies has led to unprecedented discussion of drug policy reform options, addressing topics such as increased availability of effective treatment instead of incarceration, reform of mandatory sentencing laws, civil asset forfeiture reform, and sterile syringe exchange.
A nation-wide poll by the Pew Charitable Trust demonstrated that majority of the American public believes that the drug war has failed.
"Whether you look at current drug policy from a civil libertarian perspective, a civil rights perspective, a treatment and prevention perspective, an environmental perspective, or a social justice perspective, you reach the same conclusion: we're not getting what we wanted out of this, and it's time to look at common-sense solutions that will make our communities safer and healthier," said Huffman.
An independent poll taken last March by the Albuquerque-based Research and Polling, Inc. shows that 78% of New Mexicans support making marijuana available for medical use by patients suffering from diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer; 65 % support assessing civil fines rather than criminal sanctions for possession of small amounts of marijuana; and 63% support probation and treatment services rather than incarceration for first- and second-time "hard" drug possession offenders.