by Matt Worley
As reports of new carpet being picked for various rooms of the White House were leaked by an anonymous carpet salesman on the Internet, a couple of interesting events happened simultaneously, as if God (meaning, of course, Steven Spielberg and/or Tom Hanks, I'm not sure which) himself had parted the clouds, raised a hand and said "C'mon people, let's talk about this." Governor Gary Johnson (of New Mexico--didn't you see him on 60 Minutes?) announced a slew of changes to the state's drug laws, and the new film Traffic, an exceptionally engaging trip through the ins and outs of the Drug War in the United States and Mexico, opened nationally.
There are a couple of reasons these things happened at the same time (it was not, I'm sure, a coordinated effort). One, January is when the new session of the New Mexico Legislature opens and everyone gets to put up their propositions for money, new laws and other government matters. And two, as Traffic is a front-runner for Oscar accolades, it only opened in a couple of theaters before the end of the year so it could be considered for said praise, and now that all those other crappy movies have run their course, we, the national public, are ready for the good stuff. Such is the politics of politics and film.
The Guv, who I usually don't see eye to eye with, is proposing spending bills for various treatment programs (where you been man? haven't you vetoed a few of these in your time?), proposals for larger amounts of needle exchanges, medical marijuana initiatives and also the decriminalization of possession and use of an ounce or less of marijuana. The Guv has decided that it's not good enough to just talk the talk, he's actually gonna try and push some stuff through the legislature.
Not that talking the talk isn't an achievement in itself. He is about the only high-ranking politician in this country to come out on the side of this kind of radical thinking. His basic premise is that we're spending a lot of money and it's not doing anything. So let's stop pretending that we're making a dent and give up the fight. Or at least change our strategy to prevention and treatment and stop busting small timers and filling up the jails. Usually Republicans are on the side of filling up the jails, but the Guv, in his enlightened state, realizes that having more jails is costing the state more money than it would be to let those small-timers run around on the street.
And since the de facto law of Albuquerque is basically to make the user throw away his less-than-an-ounce stash and let them go on their way, this really wouldn't change things around here much--except the user would get to keep his joint. So, who knows, maybe they'll be little pot supermarkets to shop at when I'm 90.
Traffic also asks the a different kind of question about the so-called Drug War. But more specifically, if the enemy is in our own home, do we really want to fight a war? If we're pointing guns at neighbors and relatives, do we want to put these people in jail or help them get better? I don't want to talk to much about what happens in the flick because you should just go and see this film. There has been a dearth of intelligent and beautifully shot movies this year (assuming that this is still 2000 for the sake of Father Oscar), Traffic is one of the few.
So we spend all this money on the Drug War, billions that could be spent on better schools, playgrounds, baseball stadiums and the like. Are we doing this because it's making things better or just to make ourselves feel good about trying? Even though more product gets through our borders than ever before, we're stopping some of it. Of course, the movers and shakers of the drug business know the feds are gonna get some of it. So they send more than they know will get through, just to throw us off. Just to make us feel like we're doing good. It's kind of like Live Aid, which, monetarily, became a disaster of farcical proportions. We haven't had a Live Aid II, have we?
You know I'll watch the Guv try his hardest the next couple of years to make a dent. To make a point. Because, as we know with issues of this nature, nothing substantive is going to happen when it comes to changing law. There is too much money wrapped up in fighting this war (with no boundaries or rules or consistent method) to stop it. If Columbine couldn't change the gun laws in this country, a governor of a small population state isn't going to change national drug policy. But it'll be fun.
Go ahead Governor Johnson, wave your dick in the air and see what happens. It makes for good entertainment.