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The Spin Room

Should the Government Legalize Drugs?

Aired February 22, 2001 - 10:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BEATLES (singing): Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: I remember those days, and I must admit: I did inhale.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Sadly, America has been living with the consequences ever since.

PRESS: Welcome to the future of television! Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM on CNN. I'm Bill Press, thanks for joining us.

CARLSON: In amusement, I'm Tucker Carlson. We are doing a drug show tonight; and we're also tying in pardons; we can do that, because we are talking with New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who was easily the country's most famous and highest elected official to endorse drug legalization in some forms. Anyway, we will be asking Governor Johnson; President Clinton pardoned a ton of dope dealers; are you the only Republican in America that is happy about it?

PRESS: All right; your questions also for Governor Johnson; join in as you usually do by phone: 1-800-310-4CNN, or join our chatroom at cnn.com and spend e-mails to spin at cnn.com or for real excitement: make our day join web site at cnn.com/spinroom and you can tune -- join in the quick vote; should we continue the war on drugs is today's question. You vote yes or no.

CARLSON: Another thing you can do; oh, the many features of THE SPIN ROOM: you can sign up for a daily e-mail from us alerting you to tonight's topic.

PRESS: How many more ways can we service the public?

CARLSON: It's pretty unbelievable.

PRESS: It is.

CARLSON: We are not just focusing on the news tonight, but drama. PRESS: Drugs are everywhere.

CARLSON: They are everywhere. They are a major topic of conversations in living rooms, especially dorm rooms, and also on network television. Take a look at last night's episode of the "West Wing," where legalization was approached.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE WEST WING")

ACTOR: Turn off your computer; let's go.

ACTRESS: No, I'm going to stay and watch this. I think maybe you should, too.

ACTOR: What is it?

ACTRESS: The surgeon general is doing an on-line chat.

ACTOR: What's she talking about?

ACTRESS: De-criminalizing marijuana.

ACTOR: See you tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Not many people around the White House want to talk about it. Notice how the guy takes off. You know, Tucker, I think it's time to admit that the war on drugs under Republican and Democratic presidents is a joke. We've spent all this money; we are getting no where; it's time for a totally different policy.

CARLSON: You know, it appeals to my libertarian instincts, but people who love socialism; go to the Soviet Union and North Korea; see how it actually works. If you love drug legalization, go to Amsterdam. It's a very depressing place; lots of drooling people. Everyone looks like he's just shot up, which is, in many cases, the truth. It's not pretty in its effect.

PRESS: I invite you to go to any of America's prisons and look at the people in there -- first time offenders, nonviolent drug users, and in there for 15 or 20 years, and see if that is working. But you know, we don't know as much about as our guest tonight.

CARLSON: That's right. Gary Johnson, Republican from New Mexico. Thanks for joining us, Governor.

GOV. GARY JOHNSON (R), MEXICO: I appreciate you having me on. You start off the top of hour by joking about the fact you inhaled and I have too, but for the grace of God, we are not in jail or 80 million other Americans who have, at one point or another, done the same. I think it's in this country to face the fact.

And that is, if you are smoking marijuana in the confines of your own home doing no harm other than, arguably, to yourself, do you belong in jail? I don't think you belong in jail. I think that it's a bad choice but hey, and Amsterdam -- talking about Holland.

Holland has 60 percent the drug use as that of the United States by kids and adults and that's for hard drugs and marijuana both. So if you want to look at a country that really has rational drug policy, Holland would not suggest that it would be a worse alternative than what we've currently got.

CARLSON: But they tend to do it on the street, which is a little less attractive. But let me...

JOHNSON: But they have decriminalized it, so they've done it on the street, so they can see it. That's one of the criticisms in Holland: you can see it and smell it. Again, you can see it smell it, but they have a lot less use than that of the United States. Kids don't use drugs in Holland like they do in the United States, and they have effectively legalized drugs.

CARLSON: Let's talk about the people who have been caught using drugs and wound up in prison. Some of them or a bunch of them were pardoned by President Clinton. Republicans are mad about it. Are you? How do you feel about all of these pardons for drug dealers? Big cocaine kingpins, for instance?

JOHNSON: First of all, I have been asked that all the time. It's against the law, so I'm not condoning unlawful activity but I would hope in analyzing what have done -- nonviolent drug criminals behind bars -- we would take those people into account. What we've got to take into account is, we all want to put the pusher behind bars, and the fact is, the profile of the pusher is the mother of three who's on welfare who sold a little piece of her rock cocaine for $7 to an undercover agent.

And it happens to be the third time she's done it, so now she is behind bars for 15 or 18 years because of federal mandatory sentencing. It's crazy. Do you know how many people we're arresting every year in this country? Do you guys know?

PRESS: Lay it on us.

JOHNSON: Come on, take a guess.

PRESS: 100,000.

JOHNSON: 100,000. That's a fairly educated guess; 1.6 million people a year -- we are arresting on drug-related crime. Unbelievable! That is absolutely unbelievable. When you factor out pre-adolescents, that's like one out of every 200 people in this country are getting arrested every year on drug-related crime. I need to draw a line of distinction. Here's a line of distinction, all right?

PRESS: The guy's on a roll.

JOHNSON: What?

PRESS: You're on a roll. JOHNSON: Look at alcohol, for example. You have a drink in a bar. That's acceptable activity, right? But you get out of the bar and you get into your car, it suddenly has become criminal, and it should be. You leave the bar and get into a fight -- you assault somebody -- that's criminal, and it should be.

I think we should apply these same principles to drug use. You're doing it in your own home, you are not doing harm to anybody but yourself, but you cross the line when you become involved in either property crime, violent crime; those other aspects, so we need to look at how we reduce the harm from these drugs.

PRESS: All right, Governor, just so you don't feel so lonely out there; a quick e-mail from Jackie:

"As for Governor Johnson, you are the rarest of things; a brave and honest politician. Thank you for all your courage." We won't read all the hate e-mails for you; we will save those for later.

JOHNSON: Actually, just so you guys know. There is a lot of support for this, and a lot of support among public for this. There's actually no support for this amongst elected officials.

PRESS: That's what I want to ask you. President Bush was down in Mexico last Friday, his first foreign foray -- speaking with President Vicente Fox down there, and here's what he had to say at his news conference with President Fox about the war on drugs; please listen:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm certainly going take message back to the members of Congress, that I firmly believe that President Fox will do everything in his power to root out the drugs lords, and help drug trafficking as best as he possibly can.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: So what kind of support are you getting from President Bush? It sounds to me like he's going down the same road as Presidents Clinton and other Bush and Reagan did?

JOHNSON: I'm optimistic. I have gotten to be really good friends with George and I'm optimistic. Here is somebody who will make strides with regards to drugs. But I'm not expecting him to do that out of the chute -- and significant with the trip to Mexico is the fact that he lifted sanctions with regards to drug certification and this has been a huge issue among the border governors. It's really a farce and he said, hey, it's a farce, and we aren't going to hold to it, so that was a positive step.

CARLSON: Now, Governor, one of the criticisms thrown at you and other legalizers is, gee, what about children? I want to read to you one of the quotes you have been criticized about, uttering -- from an interview you -- describing a talk you had with high school students. "You hear you're going to lose your mind or die if you smoke marijuana. I said to the high school students, you know what? I smoked marijuana, and when I smoked it, none of those things happened. In fact, it was kind of cool."

We won't argue with the specifics of that, but is this the right message to be giving to high school students?

JOHNSON: Hey, the message for high school students and the message for our kids is, we love them period. . We love them. We don't want them to do drugs, but the reality is, 51 percent of the graduating class of the year 2000 did illegal drugs, and my son happens to be a member of that graduating class, so statistically, he's probably going to have done illegal drugs.

CARLSON: Of course. You are telling him it's cool -- of course. I mean, why wouldn't he be?

JOHNSON: No, I'm not telling him it's cool. What about -- I'm saying it's totally uncool; don't do drugs, all right? If there's one thing I say here, it's don't do drugs. And I say, don't do cigarettes. And I'm somebody that hasn't had a drink in 13 years, and if you guys drink.

I want to make a plea to you: stop drinking your martinis; it's a real handicap, and let's not forget, at one point in this country's history, that was also criminal. So, what I tell my kids: don't do drugs. But I tell my kids, you know what? If you are ever in a position -- a bad position, where I don't know what happens; you give me a call, and I'm coming to get you, because I love you; no questions asked.

So, what we need to give our kids is a real strong doze of the truth. We need to tell them the truth regarding these drugs and what happens; and I'm tired of parents that want to lock up their kids, rather than somehow educate them, and deal with this on a medical basis, rather than a criminal basis.

PRESS: All right, Governor Gary Johnson!

JOHNSON: I'm going to calm down now.

CARLSON: You are an evangelist for legalization.

PRESS: We don't want you to calm down.

Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico is our guest. Maybe we'll find out, but, well, can you really take this on the campaign trail and win on this message in America.

We'll talk to the governor more when we come back -- Tucker.

CARLSON: We'll be right back, still awaiting your nominations for "Spin of The Day," so e-mail them, call them in, we'd like to see them. We'll be right back.

PRESS: Just don't take away my martini.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. We are in middle of a conversation with Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico, a man who inhaled and is delighted to tell you about it.

We'll get to him in just a second, but first, news.

PRESS: Very quickly, our political news of the day -- and it's all Bush today. Number one, the president had his first news conference in the White House. He was asked by a reporter, his thoughts, his profound thoughts on the most serious espionage case perhaps in the history of the United States, and here is what the president had to say...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm pleased that they caught the spy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Tucker.

CARLSON: Pithy is the word, Bill.

PRESS: Pithy.

CARLSON: Pithy.

PRESS: I would say, tiny sentences, tiny words, tiny thoughts.

CARLSON: Pith is the word.

OK! And more fallout from the Marc Rich scandal. Asked the other day, would he ever pardon baseball great Pete Rose, George W. Bush answered...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE ROSE, ALL-TIME HITS LEADER: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: "Sadly, no." Yeah, we all suffer.

PRESS: So, my advice to Pete Rose is that he should hire Hugh Rodham.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Yes, all right, and the final note is how do we know this the other day, in "The New York Post," Cindy Adams wrote a column in which he said that Nancy Reagan is not very impressed with President Bush. In fact, according to Cindy Adams, she calls him the village idiot.

Nancy Reagan responded today as follows. In "The New York Post," she writes: "As you can understand, I'm doing my best these days to care for my husband and rarely have time to respond to press stories. However, the column is so hurtful and erroneous that I fell compelled to contact you. I have great respect and admiration for President Bush. I personally voted for him and urged other to do so."

The story there is, of course, that Nancy Reagan does not call the president the village idiot.

All right, we have e-mails now coming in to us about Governor Johnson.

CARLSON: Here's one from Ron Lambert, "Governor Johnson is the first level-headed Republican I've seen in 30 years."

PRESS: Here, here. Ray Crawford, Rutherfordton, North Carolina, "Johnson's notion on the war a drugs makes too much sense for many people in Washington to listen to."

CARLSON: Well, I don't think that's nice, but let's ask Governor Johnson about how well he's been received.

Governor Johnson, it sounds to me -- I doubt I am the first person to point this out, but a lot of the points you are making are Libertarian points. You can't run again, as far as I understand, in New Mexico because of term limits. Would you ever run as a Libertarian?

JOHNSON: No, this is the end of my political career. I had never been involved in politics before. This is something I've always wanted to do my whole life -- actually, got elected governor and got reelected as governor, so I've been given a great opportunity, and I'm trying to make the most out of it.

I recognize that they would line up around the block to tell you I've done anything -- you know, I've done no good for New Mexico, but that's part of the job.

You know, getting back to drugs, you know, talking about the harm that drugs cause. It is amazing that, as politicians, we hear all the time, you know, what are you going to do about property crime, what are you going to do about violent crime, what are you going to do about all the people in jail. You give them an answer: well, you could start by legalizing marijuana and you could start by adopting harm reduction strategies on all these other drugs, and you would, in fact, positively impact these statistics.

I've met with the chief of police of Zurich here about eight weeks ago in Albuquerque, and you know what he had to say? He said, you know, they came out with free heroin in Zurich. Free heroin! You've got to be an addict, but you get a prescription for heroin, you go to the clinic, you inject -- the clinic -- at the clinic. Well, he said that when they came out with this -- I have been in law enforcement my whole life, everybody I was associated with in law enforcement -- we could not have been more opposed to what was going to happen in Zurich, because we thought that all of the wrong things were going to get worse.

I'm here to tell you that this has surpassed anyone's wildest expectations with regard to it getting better in Zurich. Zurich is a great place to live. Hepatitis C, AIDS, overdose, violent crime, property crime...

CARLSON: But wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a second, governor...

JOHNSON: ... have all gone down.

CARLSON: As someone who clearly has Libertarian leanings, are you comfortable with the idea of the government doling out heroin to people? I mean, isn't there something creepy about that?

JOHNSON: Well, again, what we've got to do is improve on a situation -- there are 10,000 heroin addicts in New Mexico -- and that's the estimate -- that wake up every single morning with one thing on their mind, when -- when and where are they going to get their next fix, how are they going to pay for it and everything that gets associated with it.

Well, you know what, that's property crime. That's -- either one of your houses getting burglarized right now in the name of drugs. It's violent crime. It is HIV, it's hepatitis C, it's...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: But should the government be passing heroin to people, I guess that's the bottom line question. Should the government be supplying heroin to people?

JOHNSON: The government should start to adopt harm reduction strategies, and these harm reduction strategies -- so, you know, what we're trying to start out here on small steps. Do you want kill a heroin addict, or do you want to save their life first and then you want to try to get them off of heroin?

And, if I might, for example, they've got this miracle drug, Narcan, that if you inject Narcan in an overdose victim -- I mean, we're talking about somebody who's almost dead. You give them a $1.50 dose of Narcan, apparently, you can just stick it anywhere, stick it in them, and they -- they're alive.

Well, why not limit liability, so that the police when they show up at an overdose situation can administer Narcan without first looking -- the way it is now, they show up at an overdose situation, they want to handcuff whoever's involved, rather than saving a life first...

PRESS: Governor?

JOHNSON: Yes.

PRESS: Governor, you know what, we're just getting started, but we're out of time, and I hate to say it, because it's been great having you. We want you to come back...

JOHNSON: Are you cutting me -- are you just cutting me, or are you giving me the trap door?

PRESS: That's right...

(CROSSTALK)

JOHSON: ... I thought we were scheduled for more time.

CARLSON: No, it's the White House drug office just called.

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: Let me just say, thank you for being here, and I, for one...

JOHNSON: Trap door. Trap door.

PRESS: I, for one, want to salute you. I agree with you 100 percent. Keep going. There is a couple of us who agree with you.

CARLSON: And a half-salute for me. Thank you, governor.

PRESS: All right. Governor Gary Johnson. He is the man. He gets trap door, but we don't. We'll be right back with you and your "Spins of The Day" here in THE SPIN ROOM.

CARLSON: Free heroin!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM.

Tucker Carlson, Bill Press both recovering from Governor Gary Johnson of New Mexico. But first, I just want to quick point out candles, sent to us from Melinda Myers (ph), of San Angelo, Texas, soon to be in a retail outlet near you; SPIN ROOM candles. And I have to say, they smell very nice.

PRESS: They do. SPIN ROOM candles, and also look, look, look, look at this Tuckerrrr -- Canada -- a Canada tie. This comes from Joan Lay (ph) in Canada, who says she likes the show so much, that when we're on she actually switches from a hockey game to watch THE SPIN ROOM.

CARLSON: For a Canadian to say that...

(CROSSTALK)

PRESS: ... You have got to love it.

CARLSON: OK, we have a phone spin, not from Canada but from from Pennsylvania. Loretta is on the line -- Loretta, are you there?

PRESS: Hey, Loretta. CALLER: Yes, I am. My "Spin of the Day," guys, is Hillary Clinton contradicting herself. First, when she got in front of the press today she said she was unaware of any conversation between her husband and her brother, and her husband and her treasurer for her campaign.

Yet when she ran for senator, her whole basis of experience was, was that she was an intricate part of the Clinton administration. So, which is it? Either she knows or she doesn't.

PRESS: Oh, Loretta, you are such a cynic.

CARLSON: Loretta, you could take my job, Loretta. That's exactly what I've been thinking all day.

PRESS: A lot of e-mails, and we'll talk about Hillary in just a second, a lot of e-mails about Governor Johnson. Just to show that it wasn't all positive, this man writes in: "I was a police officer for many years. Now without saying, you know what I think of Governor Gary Johnson. One word -- jerk."

CARLSON: It's a common feeling in the law enforcement community.

Here is one taken from the other point of view: "Just because we make it legal, doesn't make it good. A lot of things are bad and legal: platform shoes, cigarettes and hair plugs. I've never used drugs, but I want them legal."

PRESS: And Joan Healy (ph), California, quickly: "Treatment, not war. Drug addiction is a disease, not a crime."

CARLSON: I think I saw that in spray paint on the side of a building, Bill.

PRESS: Yeah, but that's so true. Leads me to -- Loretta started with Hillary, I go to Hillary too. Her extraordinary news conference today at the United States Senate, where I think Hillary Clinton -- she was like the statue of liberty declaring a blow for freedom.

Listen to this. Here she goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: With respect to any of these decisions, you'll have to talk with people who were involved in making them, and that leaves me out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: "That leaves me out." Translation to Bill: On this one, you're on your own, buster.

CARLSON: Bill, if you -- I'm going to have to get a Hillary puppet if you keep going.

(CROSSTALK) PRESS: It's what she said. I love it.

CARLSON: My "Spin of the Day" is also from Hillary Clinton -- I'm sure.

And this is Hillary Clinton explaining the role of William Cunningham, her campaign treasurer, who, as we now know, received money to facilitate the pardons of two men from Arkansas.

Listen to Mrs. Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: You know, if he were, you know, Joe Smith from somewhere, who had no connection with me, we wouldn't be standing here, would we? So, I just think you have to, you have to see it in context. That's what I keep asking people to do, is put these things in context and there's a very big, very big difference.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: If he "had no connection with me." If he had no connection with Hillary Clinton, he wouldn't have been paid to secure the pardons in the first place. That's the whole point. That was this man's qualification, that he knew Hillary Clinton. There was no other. That's at the very center of this. That is spin on a profound level.

PRESS: Actually, Clinton, I think she was talk about her brother in that case. If his is name were Joe Smith we would not be standing here today.

CARLSON: No, I don't think so. And you just called me Clinton, more to the point.

PRESS: Tucker, I would not compliment you that way.

CARLSON: You're melting down. You know what I think it was? It was Gary Johnson and his heroin talk.

PRESS: No, I think it's the odor, I think it's the odor from the candles.

All right, guys, I think it's time for sports.

CARLSON: I think it is. That would be "SPORTS TONIGHY."

PRESS: Oh, wait a minute, wait a minute, I have to give the results of tonight's quick vote. Quickly, should we continue the war on drugs?

61 percent of you said no. Gary Johnson, he made all those converts. Only 39 percent of you said yes.

Now it's time for sports.

CARLSON: There you go. We pack it all in here on THE SPIN ROOM.

We'll be right back with "SPORTS TONIGHT."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: I've got to tell you, Tucker, it's the most fun I've had since Woodstock.

CARLSON: That's saying a lot.

Tomorrow night's going to be every bit as fun. Capping off a week of A-list bookings, we have Republican genius, Frank Luntz.

PRESS: The boy wonder.

CARLSON: The boy wonder.

PRESS: Indeed.

CARLSON: It's going to be great.

OK. It's on to Vince.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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