Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

The West Chester University Students for Sensible Drug Policy, or SSDP, hosted former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson on Friday, October 15 for an informative discussion on the drug war in America. Students met in Sykes Ballroom A at 3:30 p.m. for an hour long examination of the effects that current drug policies have on the nation, as well as brief discussion on other issues facing the United States.

The event was a success for SSDP, who were able to draw a diverse population of students who were interested in Mr. Johnson’s views and experiences as a former state governor.

Prior to the event, many of the students socialized with those around them, sharing their reasons for attending the event and their personal opinions regarding current drug war policies – especially those regarding marijuana.

The conversations which took place between students exposed a wide range of opinions among the participants, all of whom were entering the forum with open minds and a sincere curiosity.

Gary Johnson took his place at the front of the crowd and immediately introduced himself as an entrepreneur first, and as a politician second. This background in business was crucial in shaping Gary Johnson’s policies and beliefs when he entered into politics, winning the New Mexico race for governor in 1994 with no political experience.

Johnson’s campaign, as he explained, was run based on a “common sense business approach” regarding state legislature and deficit spending.

As a governor, Johnson vetoed hundreds of spending bills presented from both parties and actively voiced his belief that the drug war was misplaced government spending. Johnson was one of the few high-end politicians publicly calling for the end of marijuana prohibition.

After giving students insight into his political background, Johnson addressed several issues which have been making national headlines before moving full steam ahead into marijuana reform.

As a former border-state governor, Johnson calls for immigration law reform. He stated that the suggestions to build a fence on the border or station national guard troops were both ineffective and not cost-efficient. Johnson has also voiced his opposition to the War in Iraq, as well as the current health care reform bill which was passed this year.

The issue which was on everyone’s minds was Johnson’s position on marijuana prohibition in the United States. Johnson has publicly denounced the current legislation regarding marijuana and, in his speech to students, addressed each of the main supporting statements used in favor of the prohibition. Johnson made it clear that it would never be legal for a minor to purchase marijuana in dispensaries, nor would it be legal for someone to operate a motor vehicle under the influence. In this regard, laws would reflect current policies on alcohol consumption. In addition, by requiring an ID for marijuana purchases, Johnson proposed that underage users would face more of a challenge acquiring marijuana than they would buying it on the current black market.

Johnson also addressed how marijuana prohibition has strengthened drug cartels operating on the Mexican border. As a former border state governor, Johnson’s experience has led him to believe that the regulation of marijuana by a government agency would “take the money out of marijuana,” effectively ending marijuana cartels by making their product less lucrative. Johnson suggested that marijuana decriminalization would decrease border violence in Mexico and the United States.

Johnson has been an active supporter of Proposition 19 on the 2010 California ballot, which would effectively legalize marijuana for recreational use. Johnson compared the proposition in California to New York state’s decision to stop enforcing alcohol prohibition, which swayed federal policy to repeal Prohibition in the 1930’s. Johnson stated that it was his hope that the passing of Proposition 19 would encourage other states to follow suit. Johnson blamed drug prohibition for the creation of such artificial narcotics such as methamphetamine, which became popular as a cheap and easily manufacturable alternative to cocaine. Johnson encouraged students to think of drug addiction as a medical condition as opposed to a criminal one. He promoted support for federal policies which would send addicts of hard drugs to rehab centers as opposed to prison.

The overall theme of Gary Johnson’s presentation was one aimed at reducing deficit government spending. The conservative students in attendance were able to relate to Gary Johnson as a small-government Republican.His message was remarkably effective in this manner. For the students who leaned further to the left, Johnson resonated because of his direct approach to a taboo issue and his witty take on a potential marijuana industry.

Johnson jokingly responded to a student’s question regarding the tobacco industry’s role in such an industry by saying “If Marlboro wants to start selling Marley-boro’s instead, then they should have that right.” The big winners of the afternoon, however, where the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, who not only gained further recognition from the student body and faculty for their event, but also helped push their organizations primary goal of sharing knowledge and eliminating propaganda in the general public.

The Students for Sensible Drug Policy hold weekly meetings in Sykes Room 255 on Thursdays at 4 p.m. Anyone searching for more information on the chapter can find it at the group’s Facebook page (West Chester University Students for Sensible Drug Policy). For more information on Gary Johnson, there is a Facebook fan page with all of his positions on national issues, as well as his possible presidential campaign in 2012.

Charles Brenner is a second-year communications student and can be reached at CB679085@wcupa.edu

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