Transcripts: Should Marijuana Be Legalized

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Apr 24, 2001.

  1. Hosted by Chris Matthews
    Source: NBC

    Well, if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, is it fair to say our war on drugs is crazy? That's the position of New Mexico's two-term Republican governor, Gary Johnson, a triathlete and former marijuana user who wants marijuana legalized --not decriminalized, legalized--and syringes made available for people to buy in pharmacies. However, since a government survey shows drug use among young people actually dropped from more than 11 percent to less than 10 percent between 1997 and 1998, the latest numbers available, isn't that a sign we may be winning the war against drugs?

    With me to discuss that question, New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, and Joe Califano, president of the National Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse. He's the former secretary of HEW under Lyndon Johnson.
    God, you look young, Joe, for working way back then. That's 100 years ago.

    Let's talk to the governor. Let's get it straight. You want to legalize marijuana.

    Governor GARY JOHNSON (Republican, New Mexico): Legalize marijuana, yes, and adopt harm reduction strategies on these other drugs. When it comes to heroin, you've got a heroin maintenance program in Zurich, Switzerland, that, for example, the chief of police of Zurich, whom I talked to about four months ago--he said, 'Hey, they adopted a heroin maintenance program in Zurich which--basically free heroin. You're an addict, you go to a doctor, you get a prescription, you go to a clinic, you ingest the heroin.' He said the idea was--was that we were going to reduce property crime, violent crime, HIV, hepatitis C, death, overdose, fewer non-violent criminals behind bars.

    He said, 'I could have not been more opposed to that when I heard about that, nor any of my friends who are also in law enforcement.' He said, 'I'm here to tell you that this has worked beyond anybody's wildest imagination.'

    MATTHEWS: How's it work? You go into some place and--and--and sh--and shoot up and just hang around there for a while where you can't hurt anybody?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Apparently. Apparently. Apparently. And, again...

    MATTHEWS: It's like an old opium den.

    Gov. JOHNSON: L--like an opium den. That's my understanding, yes. But, again, you--managing a situation. There's not overdose death not anywhere near what it was before because, again, it's a controlled substance so you don't have the spread of HIV, hepatitis C...

    MATTHEWS: Would it bother you if you were flying on a plane as a passenger and you knew that the pilot was zonked that weekend on--on marijuana?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, totally. And I've always...

    MATTHEWS: Or maybe a couple days before even.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, I--I've always advocated--I've always advocated that employers should be able to discriminate against drug users. But as a drug user, as a mar--as a smoker of marijuana, you choose whether or not you want to be an airline pilot or whether or not you want to...

    MATTHEWS: Well, let's get an honest ...(unintelligible) joking about--a surgeon--would you want a surgeon to have used marijuana a couple days before he operates on you?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Absolute--the obvious--I mean, obviously astronauts...

    MATTHEWS: Or--or a train conductor in New York City when he ca--has to stop the train?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, obviously you don't want...

    MATTHEWS: Or an air traffic controller? Aren't there so many jobs like that?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, one of the problems, Chris, with--with drug testing today is drug testing measures the presence of drugs. Certainly d--we don't want anybody impaired using drugs. But I--I think clearly we've got millions of people in this country who are a--who are doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs who have smoked pot. Again, that's not to condone use.

    MATTHEWS: Have smoked it recently, or like when they were 23 years old, or 22 years old?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well--well, or recently. I mean, this is--this is just a fact of life. I mean, we're talking about 80 million Americans who have smoked pot; 800,000 arrests a year for marijuana.

    MATTHEWS: Would you have said this--what you're saying right now--if you were running for re-election in New Mexico?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, what I've said since the very beginning is the war on drugs is a miserable failure. We can't continue to arrest and incarcerate our way out of this. I don't have the answers. This is what I said to start with. And, by the way, Secretary of State George Shultz called me up about five weeks ago, and he and I basically launched into this conversation the same way. And that was: Look, the war on drugs is a failure. Let's talk about alternatives, but included in those alternatives we're going to have to talk about legalization. This is George Shultz talking to me.

    MATTHEWS: So just to correct something I said before, I said that you're--you're for legalizing hard drugs. You are for legalizing marijuana. And your position on drugs like cocaine and heroin is what?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Harm reduction--harm reduction strategies. Let's reduce violent crime, property crime. Let's reduce the health impacts, so we're talking about hepatitis C, HIV, overdose, death. Let's spend more money on education...

    MATTHEWS: But nothing on--nothing for carrying. No--no criminalization for carrying. Don't put a guy away for that.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, let's move away from a criminal model to a medical model.

    MATTHEWS: Let's go to go--Joe Califano. Mr. Califano, Mr. Secretary, I know you have strong feelings on this. What do you have to critique what you've just heard?

    Mr. JOSEPH CALIFANO (Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse): Well, one, with respect to marijuana, marijuana is a dangerous drug. One, with respect to the war on drugs, we've done a lot better. I mean, we have half the people using drugs that were using drugs in the late 1970s. That's number one.

    Number two, we have experience with legalized marijuana. Alaska did it. It was a disaster up there. They had an explosion in drug use, and they--and they repealed that law.

    Number three, marijuana is a dangerous drug, it--it--and particularly for kids. We have 89--almost 90,000 kids in this country, teens and children, in treatment for marijuana dependence and abuse. We have only 20,000 kids in that age group in--in treatment for alcohol. What does marijuana do? It sava...

    MATTHEWS: It--al--alcohol is addictive, Joe. We know that. Alcohol is definitely addictive for a lot of people, not everybody.

    Mr. CALIFANO: That's right. And--and...

    MATTHEWS: Is marijuana addictive, Governor, do you believe?

    Mr. CALIFANO: Absolutely. The National Institute on Drug Abuse...

    Gov. JOHNSON: No.

    Mr. CALIFANO: ...tells you mar--wait--wait a minute, governor. The National--I'm not--the National Institute on Drug Abuse in this country, scientists, tell you that marijuana is an addictive substance for many, many people.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Joe, I happen to be one of the 80 million Americans who--who have done pot. And--and it's clearly not addictive.

    Mr. CALIFANO: All right. Listen, I'm one--I'm one of the hundred million American--I'm one of the hundred million Americans who smoked cigarettes, and I quit smoking.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, and that's--and...

    Mr. CALIFANO: But let's be realistic. It may not have been addictive to you. But let me...

    Gov. JOHNSON: And--and, again, this is not to condone the use of any of these products.

    Mr. CALIFANO: No, I understand that. But...

    Gov. JOHNSON: It's just to say: Should we continue to arrest and incarcerate this country over this issue?

    Mr. CALIFANO: All right. Let's--let's--let's...

    Gov. JOHNSON: No, we can't continue to do that.

    Mr. CALIFANO: Let's--let's also deal with...

    Gov. JOHNSON: And--and I've got another one for you.

    Mr. CALIFANO: Let's--let's also--wait a minute, governor. Governor, give me a chance to finish, please.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Joe--Joe...

    MATTHEWS: Give Joe a minute.

    Mr. CALIFANO: Please. One, what marijuana does is savage--it--it affects short-term memory. It affects attention span. This issue is all about children. And anything that makes drugs more available to the children of this country is a dangerous thing. And when we have a situation--you know, we want people to take care of themselves. You have--you have seat belt laws in--in New Mexico. You have helmet laws for--for motorcyclists. We should not make these drugs more available.

    As far as heroin maintenance is concerned, we have that in England. England has the highest heroin rate in the world right now.

    MATTHEWS: OK. Well, we--we have--we have things that are done in this country that we tolerate. We tolerate abortion rights, although a lot of people think it's wrong. We tolerate--but i--isn't this a civil liberties question?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, l--let's use seat belts.

    MATTHEWS: I mean, seat belts--a lot of people don't like seat belts or helmets.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Let--let's use--l--let's use seat--let's use seat belts as an example, all right? First off, it's not criminal if you don't buckle up. And in New Mexico, we have a mandatory seat belt law. A lot of states do. Ninety-four percent of the people comply with seat belt law. Well--well, guess what? What if only 50 percent of the people complied with the seat belt law? Would we make it criminal? At what point would we change the law? When 50 percent of the people weren't complying with the law and we were spending half of law enforcement, half of courts--half--half--half of...

    MATTHEWS: Joe, would you criminalize seat belt non-use? You wouldn't do that? I guess--I guess that's a whimsical question, right?

    Mr. CALIFANO: That is--that is a whimsical question. But...

    Gov. JOHNSON: Yeah, but at--but at what point would we change the law if we criminalized it?

    Mr. CALIFANO: Let--let--let--please stay on the issue of marijuana and--and--and on the issue of--and on the issue of drugs.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, Joe, you were talking about seat belts.

    Mr. CALIFANO: We--we need to do everything we can to keep drugs out of the hands of kids. We know that if a child gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol, that kid is home-free. We have shown no ability to keep the legal drugs--nicotine and alcohol--out of the hands of our children. We have millions more kids using alcohol, which is the number one drug problem they've got, than we have smoking marijuana. Legalizing marijuana would open that whole field to kids. Once you legalize, Governor, you allow all the marketing to take place, all the guys out there that'll sell it. You've got to be realistic about that.

    Gov. JOHNSON: I--I think you can make a case that just the opposite would happen.

    Mr. CALIFANO: And our kids will get deeply into that stuff.

    Gov. JOHNSON: I--I...

    MATTHEWS: Well, wouldn't the big cigarette companies go to marijuana to make money?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well--well, first of all, kids will tell you...

    MATTHEWS: Wouldn't they? They're already geared up. They just put marijuana in those rolls and start putting--coming out with cigarettes--j--marijuana cigarettes tomorrow morning.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, first of all, I don't think it's ever going to be legal--first--never going to be legal for kids to do marijuana; never going to be legal to sell marijuana to kids...

    Mr. CALIFANO: It's not legal for kids to smoke cigarettes; it's not legal for kids to drink beer.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Right. But you--but you've got 54 percent of the graduating class of the year 2000 that is--that have done illegal drugs. Are we--do we really want to put them all in mandatory rehabilitation? Do we really want...

    Mr. CALIFANO: Gov--Governor...

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...to lock them all up? No. And kids will tell you...

    Mr. CALIFANO: Governor, if you look at the House--wait.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Now let me finish, Joe. Wait. Come on now, let me finish here. Kids will tell you that marijuana is harder to come by than--that it's easier to come by than alcohol. And that's because alcohol is a controlled substance. Ask kids about getting a legal prescription drug without a prescription. A, it's impossible. Again, I'm talking about controlling, regulating, taxing substances that right now are in the bl...

    MATTHEWS: What age would you be allowed to use marijuana under your law, if you passed it?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, und--under mine, if I were the dictator--and, of course, I'm not the dictator...

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...but if I was, 21 years old. I'd model it...

    MATTHEWS: Twenty-one?

    Gov. JOHNSON: I'd model it similar to alcohol.

    Mr. CALIFANO: OK. OK. And look--and look at the kids that are drinking alcohol and drinking beer. We have--85 percent to 90 percent of the kids in high schools in this country have had a drink. Your number of 54 percent is incorrect by the National Household Drug Survey, Governor. We're talking about maybe 20 percent of our kids have tried drugs.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, here--here's--here's another statistic...

    Mr. CALIFANO: Wait--wait a minute.

    Gov. JOHNSON: No, Chris, you've got to listen to this.

    Mr. CALIFANO: Wait a minute.

    MATTHEWS: Wait, let him finish.

    Gov. JOHNSON: All right. All right. All right.

    Mr. CALIFANO: Governor--governor, just let me finish, please. With respect to cigarettes, we have, you know, 30 percent, 35 percent of the kids smoking cigarettes. Now those substances are illegal, for cigarettes for kids under--under--under 18, and in states alcohol for kids under 21. Yet, we have millions of kids who are binge drinking, who get hooked on those substances. Those are the most vulnerable years. I want laws and systems and standards that help keep this stuff out of the hands of kids.

    MATTHEWS: OK. . Does anybody--I'm going to ask you both a total non-moral question, a totally non-legal question. Gentlemen, does either of you know a successful grownup, your age, our age generally, who has succeeded in life along their career lines and--and uses marijuana regularly? Do you know anybody like that?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Yes, I know countless--countless numbers...

    MATTHEWS: Really?

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...that still smoke pot and...

    MATTHEWS: Really? Really? What a crowd you run in.

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...and I--I deem successful. I'm not alone in this.

    MATTHEWS: I think that--Joe...

    Gov. JOHNSON: I'm not alone in this.

    Mr. CALIFANO: I--I don't...

    MATTHEWS: ...(unintelligible) from out West. I don't know them around here.

    Mr. CALIFANO: I don't know...

    MATTHEWS: Joe.

    Mr. CALIFANO: I don't know anybody in the--in the--in the world of law I've worked in and the world of government I've worked in and now in the world of a foundation dealing with this problem--I do not know anyone that regularly smokes marijuana that has been successful. So I--I--I just live in a different world.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Oh, it's just...

    Mr. CALIFANO: And I--I do think--I really--I also want to drive home the fact that it is--it is critical to say that--not to use harm reduction as a cover for making even harder substances like heroin and cocaine more available to people. Charlie Rangel used to...

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, ...(unintelligible)...

    MATTHEWS: Wait. Let's go--let's go...

    Mr. CALIFANO: When--when Mayor Lindsey...

    MATTHEWS: You just turned the corner there, Joe. You just turned the corner on the conversation. We've got to get back there. One paragraph at a time. I'm going to ask you, Gary--Governor, it seems to me that you're arguing a really strong case here. If you--if you legalize drugs, legalize marijuana in--in New Mexico, would you take moral responsibility for what happened? I mean, suppose people went out and did something when they were stoned or--or they--they didn't do their jobs and there was...

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, look--look--look...

    MATTHEWS: Would you feel responsible for what happened personally?

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well, relating this to alcohol, all right?

    MATTHEWS: Yeah.

    Gov. JOHNSON: You--you drink alcohol. I'm going to say that that's acceptable behavior, and let's not forget that at one point in this country's history that was also criminal, at least the manufacture, distribution, all right?

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    Gov. JOHNSON: But y--you have a drink in the bar and--and you get out from the bar, you've had a couple of drinks...

    MATTHEWS: But there was booze before Prohibition.

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...you--you go--you--you go into--you go get into your car--you just crossed over the line.

    MATTHEWS: Right.

    Gov. JOHNSON: That--that should be criminal. You're--you're--you potentially can do harm to somebody else. That's the same law...

    MATTHEWS: What kind of sharp...

    Gov. JOHNSON: ...line we ought to draw with regard...

    MATTHEWS: ...decision-making is being made by people who are stoned? They can't decide whether to get in the car if they're stoned. They don't have the ability to make that decision.

    Gov. JOHNSON: Well--well, but a--again, Chris, you--you're--no, let's not--let's not forget here that we've got this many people who are doing illegal drugs.

    MATTHEWS: Yeah. Right.

    Gov. JOHNSON: People that smoke marijuana, for the most part, are smoking marijuana just like others have cocktails, in the evenings. They're--they're--you know...

    MATTHEWS: I--I--I guess--I--I'm hanging around this sort of Catholic East Coast crowd, I guess. Anyway, thank you very much, Governor Gary Johnson, a very bold man; and Joe Califano. Thanks for coming back, Joe. Please come back again.

    Up next, all the day's political buzz with the--USA Today's Tom Squitieri and Time magazine's Tamala Edwards. You're watching HARDBALL.

    Guests: Governor Gary Johnson, Joseph Califano

    Complete Title: Hardball With Chris Matthews: Should Marijuana Be Legalized

    Source: National Broadcasting Company (US)
    Host: Chris Matthews
    Air Date: April 19, 2001
    Show: Hardball With Chris Matthews (8:00 Pm Et)
    Copyright: 2001 CNBC, Inc.
    Website: http://www.nbc.com/
     

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