11/15/09 Gary Johnson

Century of Lies

Gary Johnson former governor of N.M. (and LEAP speaker) + Novia Lagard, Lynn Paltrow, Ethan Nadelmann and Gabriel Sayegh close out the Drug Policy Alliance conference in Albuquerque.

Audio file

Century of Lies, November 15, 2009

{people chanting}

No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War! No More! Drug War!

{sounds of cheering in the background}

This is Dean Becker for Century of Lies and the Drug Truth Network. I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico reporting from the major Convention on Drug Reform, put together by the Drug Policy Alliance. The closing session is about to begin and we’re going to hear from their special guest. But their Executive Director, Mr. Ethan Nadelmann, is going to serve the introductions for us all.

Ethan Nadelmann: About ten years ago, an article popped up in the media that I found hard to believe. Some Governor, and a republican of all things, had blurted out, that he thought ‘Maybe drugs should be made legal and the drug war was a horrific thing in our society.’ I said, “That can’t be.“ But it was true… and it was a republican governor, named Gary Johnson, who had just won re-election for the second time…

{clapping and cheers}

…and we met; we connected; we locked in, to finding the first of three remarkable women who have directed the DPA’s offices in New Mexico, Katharine Huffman. We set up shop here and worked hand in hand with Governor Gary Johnson of the democratic legislature, to pass some really path breaking legislation and to set the stage for more legislation and follow thereafter.

But beyond that, Gary Johnson became a national spokesperson, featured on everything from NPR to the New York Times magazine. On, I believe it, was 60 Minutes and a whole range of other things, speaking out nationally. Trying to move other governor’s around the country, both republican and democrat. Meeting with his allies across the boarder and really just showing that it was possible to stand up, in American politics, and speak the truth.

I remember the first Albuquerque Journal editorial that just mocked him and by the time he was leaving office, they were praising him for the debate that he had opened up.

{clapping and cheers}

Now, nobody knows, I don’t think, what lies in Gary Johnson’s future. But I for one, have a wish. Ron Paul did something very interesting in the 2008 election, in the republican primaries. I think Gary Johnson could be ten times the Ron Paul, that Ron Paul ever was…

{clapping and cheers}

…and … all I say, I’m just hoping and wishing here, but that’s somebody could light up the republican party, seize that libertarian wing, spread it out there and really turn this national lead. Gary, take it away.

{clapping and cheers}

Gary Johnson: Very nice. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks, really. Thank you. Thank you.

I have never been involved with politics prior to becoming Governor of New Mexico and really, it was a dream come true. It was something that I wanted to do. It was something that I really thought would be a high calling, being in a position to make a difference. New Mexico’s two to one democrat vs. republican, and I did get elected and if there was one thing that I didn’t want to do, it was, I didn’t want to leave office with a could’a/should’a/would’a.

I promised voters that I would put the issues that should be on the front burner, on the front burner, regardless of the political consequence, ‘cause there wasn’t a political consequence. Again, I’ve never been involved in politics… {audience chuckling} …and, I got to tell you, you could disagree with everything that I did as governor, but you couldn’t disagree with the process and that was, we really tried to understand the issues and we really tried to do what was best for New Mexicans, with politics being the last item on the list when it came to consideration.

So I came at this issue from the stand point of, I really wanted to see it ‘crack down’ in drunken driving. Well, you know what? The Police just don’t have the resources to handle it. The courts, they really, they just don’t have the resources and when it comes to the prisons, they’re overcrowded. It turns out that half of what law enforcement does, half of what the prisons do, half of what the courts do, is drug related, and to what end?

So again, I really wanted to take a hard look at the war on drugs. I wanted to take a hard look at the war on drugs, see what it was doing and include it in taking a look at the war on drugs. I wanted to include legalization as a possible solution to what was happening, with regard to the war on drugs. When I came out on this issue, my approval rating went from fifty-eight percent to twenty-eight percent overnight, and again, I wasn’t blind to that happening.

But what I saw was that we were arresting one point eight million people a year in this country, on drug related crime. I always say that that’s the population of New Mexico. So I looked into the issue and I found out that eight thousand people a year die from overdose and I was surprised at that figure because it was so low! Four hundred fifty thousand people are estimated to die from tobacco related health problems, a hundred thousand, hundred fifty thousand from alcohol related death and legal prescription drugs.

So this number was really low and what I came to is, I came to the conclusion that ninety percent of the drug problem was prohibition related, not use related, and that’s not to discount the problems with use, but that ought to be the focus. So I came out and I said, “Marijuana ought to be legalized.”

I came out. I said, “Marijuana ought to be legalized and we ought to adopt harm reduction strategies regarding all these other drugs,” and by harm reduction strategies, reducing death, disease, crime.

{clapping in the audience}

I also said, “Don’t do drugs. Don‘t do drugs,” and kids, it’s never going to be legal for kids to do drugs, alright? Never. But graduating class of 2009, more than half the kids in the graduating class of 2009 have done illegal drugs, so it would be abnormal to not do drugs. It seems we ought to tell kids to do drugs and maybe, maybe they would do less.

{Chuckling in audience}

So, so… things happened when I was governor. One of my ’hot button’ things was picking up trash in the state of New Mexico. I’m out picking up trash one morning in Albuquerque and there’re about thirty kids out there picking up trash with me. Well, it clicks after a little bit. One of these kids says, “You’re the Governor!” Before I know it, these thirty kids are standing around me in a circle and you know what? They were all there because they were all doing drug rehab. They’d all been to drug court and this was one of their penance.

This kid says to me, he says, “ You know what? We’ve got to do drug testing. I’ve been caught three times. We’re in essence going to go to jail if we don’t straighten up and so we’re all straight. We’re going to all obey all this stuff that’s been put on us Governor Johnson, but we love smoking pot. We love smoking pot. We’re going to continue smoking pot. When I grow up, my dream is to get married, have kids, to sit out on the porch and smoke pot. That’s my dream.”

So, treatment. Treatment instead of incarceration. I want to offer treatment instead of incarceration in a hundred out of a hundred cases, but you know what? It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because we have a forced treatment model.

There was a woman who screamed at me at a ‘Fun Run’ in Albuquerque. She says, ’You want to what? Adopt harm reduction strategies? Cocaine? Cocaine ruined my life. I was addicted to cocaine. Cocaine was terrible. You’re a Nut. I hate you!” I said, “Did you go to jail?” She goes, “No, I didn’t go to jail.” “Well imagine if you’d a gone to jail, how much worse that would have been.“

People have addictions. People have problems. They deal with them. For every one person who says it was a great experience to have gone to jail, there are a hundred others that don’t have to go to jail that find their way through that. I’m always slain by celebrities that come out and say, “Drugs should be illegal. I used them. They were terrible.” Well, that celebrity never went to jail. Jail, being the worse possible thing.

Through Ethan, I met the Chief of Police from Zurich, Switzerland. He says, “Look. I am here today, in Albuquerque.” He says, “I’m here, in Albuquerque, to tell you that Zurich, having adopted a heroin maintenance program, is a much better place to live.” He said, “I’ve been involved with law enforcement my entire life and I got to tell you, I thought that death, disease and crime would skyrocket as a result of ‘legal heroin’, of heroin maintenance.” He said, “I’m here today to tell you that Zurich is a much better place to live, as a result of that.”

Barry McCaffrey. This is somebody that I debated. I don’t want to blame Barry McCaffrey but, let’s just say the government. I debated the government, you know, “Marijuana is a gateway drug.” Marijuana is not a gateway drug!

{clapping and cheering}

It’s like saying milk leads to alcoholism, and Holland! Holland had Barry McCaffrey, the government. Holland has these, “We want to end up being like Holland?” “Yeah, I think we do!” {laughter} Sixty percent. The drug use is that of the United States. These are things that I found out.

I met with judges in Portland, Oregon and these judges, these judges… I didn’t know what this meeting was going to really be like, but these judges said, “Look. We are here to support you. We think that what you’re saying is right on and we would like to share with you some stories here that maybe will help you out, in communicating this issue.”

They said that methamphetamine is really the bogeyman drug. It’s the drug that does the worst things to people and you know what? Methamphetamine is the best example of a prohibition drug that we can possibly think of. They said, “We’re not suggesting it, but if cocaine were legal, these methamphetamine users would never have become methamphetamine users.” Methamphetamine. Best example of a prohibition drug. Cheap. Easy to make. The consequences disparagingly fall on the poor, because of those facts.

Then cocaine. Cocaine is a dangerous drug. It puts holes in your heart. People that I have grown up with over my life, that have done cocaine throughout their lives, they’re really - they’re dying now, because they’ve put holes in their heart.

But back to honesty. Back to telling the truth about what these drugs do to us. I had a publisher from a major newspaper, in the United States, say to me, “I smoked marijuana when I was in college. I went into the grocery store and it was like the roach cans came alive, and you want to legalize this stuff?” and I said,

{chuckling in audience}

…my point exactly. My point exactly. You want to control it. You want to regulate it. You wanted some beer weed and you got LSD weed. That’s just the way it, that’s just the way it was.

{laughter and chuckling by all}

Dean Becker: You are listening to Century of Lies on the Drug Truth Network. We’re listening to former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, give the closing speech at the Drug Policy Alliance Conference on Drug Reform in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Gary Johnson: You know, there are tens of millions of Americans that, but for our drug laws, have now been convicted and are felons and would otherwise be tax paying, law abiding citizens. I went to a drug warrior conference in Chicago and there was a cocktail party. There was a cocktail party the night before and these drug warriors, from all over the country, are falling over themselves. I go, “Do you not see the hypocrisy here?” and the bottom line is, is that marijuana really is safer than alcohol.


I went to a secure lockdown facility in Northern New Mexico. Hundred and twenty-five kids that were locked up. “How many of you kids here, are in here for drug related crime?” Every single hand went up and the bottom line was, was that these kids had been convicted of large quantities of drugs. Well, because of our laws, these kids were the mules. They were going to be given another chance. That was just the reality.

I pardoned a woman in New Mexico who was serving a twenty-five year sentence for an addiction to Tylenol 3 with Codeine. She had written herself a hundred and thirty prescriptions for Tylenol 3. She served six years of her sentence and nothing else. She wrote, she wrote… I released her from prison. The response was, “What if she uses it again?” “What if she does it again?” I don’t care. I’ll pardon her again. She has a health problem, not a criminal justice problem!

{cheering from audience}

Cheerleaders from Rio Rancho that wouldn’t show up and cheer because parents didn’t want to send them the wrong message, by getting out and supporting anything that I was doing. My message to kids, my message to kids, I love my kids. I love my kids. I don’t want to see them in a position where they become impaired and somehow get behind the wheel of a car. When it comes to my kids, I love you! I love you.! You give me a call. You get in a situation where you’re impaired, I’m going to come pick you up, no questions asked, because again, bottom line, I love you.

I broke my back while I was in office and I used pain killers for about ten days and after I used the pain killers for ten days, it took me about four weeks to get off the pain killers, after I stopped using. I had a very good friend who had a bad accident right after mine and I said, “Man, you got to watch out for the pain killers. He goes, “Man, I’m using ganja. I’m not having any problem whatsoever.” Medical marijuana, it works!


The Texas town hall. I went to a Texas town hall meeting, where a guy stands up and he said, “You’re talking about decriminalizing heroin? You’re talking, you’re talking about somehow condoning? There were nine kids in our community that died from heroin overdose and screw you!” and out the door he walks and I swear, you could have heard a pin drop and I said, “Look, I don’t know what the circumstances are, but let me guess. Let me guess that the heroin supplier got arrested, sent to jail and in comes a new supply, quality, quantity unknown and I hate to say it but, prohibition might have killed those kids, and somebody else again - you could have heard a pin drop, somebody said, “You know what? That’s exactly what happened.”

I had a death threat from Menaul High School, that I was sending the wrong message to kids at Menaul High School in Albuquerque. My press secretary said, “What was the message? The Governor saying twenty-one times to ‘Not do drugs’? Or the seventeen times that he said, ‘If you do drugs, be really careful. Don’t get caught. I don’t want to send you to prison.’?”

One of my fellow governors approached me during one of the last governor’s meetings and said, “Gary, I got to talk to you. My son is smoking pot.” I go, “So, alright… So, what‘s….?” “He‘s hanging out with the wrong crowd! He’s smoking pot! He’s kind of lethargic. I just don’t know what to do.” I said, “Well, has he been arrested?” “No.” I said, “Well, isn’t that what you’re really worried about?” I said, “You need to tell him that you love him,” and I said, “Hey, he’s just going through this enlightenment phase,” and he goes, “That’s exactly what he saying.”


I can’t tell you how many other politicians have approached me and said, “I wish I could say what it is, that you are saying.” I think that we’ve reached a tipping point, on this issue. Massachusetts, voting to decriminalize marijuana. The city of Denver voting to decriminalized marijuana, on the basis of marijuana being safer than alcohol.

A Gallup Poll just within the last week, fifty-three percent to forty-seven percent, saying that marijuana ought to be legalized. You know what, when fifty-three percent, fifty-three percent saying, NO! When fifty-three percent of the population says that forty-seven percent of the population ought to go to jail for their activities, that is not good law. Doing the same thing over and over and over, expecting different results. What’s that the definition of?

Group: INSANITY! {chuckling throughout}

Gary Johnson: I really wanted to come here today to thank all of you. To thank all of you for all that you’ve done and to say, “Not to give up,” and by give up, not to say, “Gee, we’ve gotten all these, you know, things are happening.” Well, I just want to tell you, to not be content with what’s happened. Now’s the time to really put the pedal to the metal and again, a huge thank you to the Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan in particular, and to everyone here.

I wasn’t alone going out and talking about this issue. It was a lot of really hard working, intelligent people that I am very, very proud to be a part of. Thank you.

Dean Becker: With repeated shouts of 2012, former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, has certainly brought the house down, here at the Drug Policy Alliance Conference, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Ethan Nadelmann: I look forward to hearing this on the National stage. It’s going to be fun.

Dean Becker: Alright. I had to snip about five seconds from that speech when I brought it to production but I think it’s palpable. I think it’s a pretty big enchilada to chew on and I hope you’ll do just that. I’m going to bring you a few segments that followed Gary’s presentation. Kind of folks who were singled out for the caliber of thought that they brought to the conference...and so, let us begin.

Well, my name is Novia Lagard. I’m a student at the University of Texas, at El Paso. I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and first of all, I just want to thank my chapter members real quick, because they’re here and they’re being loyal and they’re getting up and taking notes on every panel. So I hope we can take this back to our University and share it with our students because a big population there, a lot of students come from Ciudad Juarez. Also a lot of them have family in Juarez. I’m one of them and because of the escalating drug cartel violence, months go by before we go see them because, you know, the fear that’s perpetrated.

So basically, I’m really proud to be a part of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. I’m proud to be a chapter leader and the main reason I joined was because of everything that’s going on in the border. Well over eighty percent of the drugs that come into the US are through the border and they’re through El Paso, Texas.

So, I think it’s very important that we all gather here. I’m really happy that we have all these experts and all these very active and passionate students, because it’s something we really need. I mean, it’s been four decades already of doing the same thing over, same policy, same tactics and there has been no change.

We have people dying everyday over there, because they’re fighting for territory and it’s just scary, it’s scary. It really needs to end and I think Ciudad Juarez is a perfect example of what our failed drug policies do to other countries.

Dean Becker: Next up, speaking on the Drug Policy Alliance Conference stage, in the closing moments, was Lynn Paltrow. She’s director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women.

Lynn Paltrow: These movements are all the same. A very brief way of showing that, I have a few questions for you. When this country prohibited and criminalized abortion, did it stop women from having abortions?

Audience: No.

Lynn Paltrow: When this country made it a crime to drink alcohol, did people stop drinking alcohol?

Audience: No.

Lynn Paltrow: When people where told they couldn’t have certain kinds of sex, did it stop them from having those kinds of sex?

Audience: No!

Lynn Paltrow: …and when they outlawed drugs, did it work?

Audience: No.

Lynn Paltrow: Alright. So we’re all working on the same thing and something else that I think a lot about, is how, often certain hot button issues are used to distract us from the shared values we all have. You bring up gay marriage, abortion and drugs and suddenly we’re not talking about health insurance. Something that we all need, and we‘re not talking about housing being foreclosed and we‘re not talking about people not being able to make a living wage.

This is purposeful political decision making. Let’s target the issue of abortion. Let’s target the issue of gay rights. Let’s target drug policy, so that we can use those issues to organize on the right and keep us divided around things around which there’s enormous shared values and I hope we’ll focus on that.


What prohibiting things that we know people are going to do anyway does, is it gives the state power to control certain populations. To control them, to punish them or ignore them and I particularly want to mention what recently happened in Cleveland, Ohio. Apparently a man had, for quite some time, been taking women, raping them, murdering them and burying them in his back yard, and why did it take so long for this to be discovered?

Because when the community went to the police, an African American community went to the police and said, “My daughter…” “My sister…” “My friend… has been missing and I‘m worried that something happened to her.” They said, “Not only, well, she’s a woman. Not only is she’s a woman of color, but she’s a drug user. We’re not going to go look for her.” It became very, very clear that the reason the police did not go looking, was because these people were labeled as drug users. So they became dispensable. We can’t allow that anymore,…


…that that murderer could have been stopped years ago. I was glad that I’ve heard this said at this conference, more than I’ve heard anywhere else.

I spend one of many days visiting drug treatment court and by the end of the day I was, sort of, shaking and all day long I had heard people described as… ‘clean‘, ‘dirty‘, ‘clean‘, ‘dirty‘, and I thought, “It’s not about me. Why am I getting so upset?” and then I remembered being in the forth grade and Patty leaning over and saying, “You’re a dirty Jew,” and I got it.

You know, when you can label certain populations dirty and others as clean, then you have a right to dehumanize them. You have a right to set up policies that say, “You are not entitled to anything, because you are dirty.” I know we use that language. I do it, too. (Somebody’s cleaning my tests.) Tests are clean. It’s not the people who are clean or dirty. It’s the drug tests and we know there‘s a lot to be said about how those fail.

So what we have to move towards, it’s the human rights understanding that we are entitled to be taken care of. To be provided with a minimal level, at least a basic level of healthcare and housing and safety. Not because of what we do, but because we are human beings. Whether we use drugs or we don’t. Whether we’re white or black, male or female.


Dean Becker: There were literally hundreds of other speakers at this conference in Albuquerque, all with expertise in their various fields and coming together. I want to tell you something, folks. If you still believe the drug war is working, you’re in for a surprise. Your horse is lying dead and moldering. It’s time to change your ride.

Here to close us out is the gentleman who closed out the whole conference, Gabriel Sayegh, of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Gabriel Sayegh: We’re in this together. There’s no other way around it and Lorenzo and I were talking before this. You know, this is a moment when, unlike other moments, we’re coming off a string of victories. We’ve met in the past. We’ve met for years and some of you in this room have been doing this a long time, to let others like us be here today. Which I appreciate that.

We’re now in a moment when, month after month, it seems like victories are at hand, this is a different time. We’re in this together. We’re going to have to continue to build it together.

Well, that’s going to have to do it for this show. Be sure to check out this weeks Cultural Baggage with more from the conference in Albuquerque and be sure to check out the 420’s. There’ll be lots to share there as well.

Please, my friends, do your part. The end of drug war is near and as always, I remind you that there is no truth, justice, logic, scientific fact, no medical data, no reason for this drug war to exist. The drug lords run both sides of this equation. Pleas visit our website, endprohibition.org.

Reporting from Albuquerque, this is Dean Becker.

Prohibido istac evilesco.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Dean Becker, asking you to examine our policy of Drug Prohibition.

The Century of Lies.

This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston

Transcript provided by: C. Assenberg of www.marijuanafactorfiction.org