LOS ANGELES – Walking around the 2011 Drug Policy Alliance conference, one gets the sense that fighting the drug war is really starting to go mainstream. Never is that more the case than when talking to Washington State Rep. Roger Goodman (D), a candidate for Congress in his state’s 1st district.
Participating in a panel discussion Friday about synthetic and other alternative substances like K2, Spice and Salvia, Goodman drew several applause lines for his strikingly conservative rhetoric appealing to public safety, stronger communities and a future where drug addiction is treated as a sickness, not a scourge.
“When I make my presentations, I talk about prohibitions throughout history as all having failed, going way back to the 16th century prohibitions of coffee and tobacco in Europe, which were punishable by death at that time,” he told Raw Story in an exclusive interview.
“There are five major reasons to do this work,” Goodman explained. “Drug policy is not an esoteric matter. It is strategically linked to so many other important issues, and in no particular order, the reasons we need to repeal prohibition are: to improve public safety, because we’ve yielded the criminal markets to violent enterprises; to provide better health care; to protect families and children; to save one heck of a lot of money, because it’d be much more fiscally responsible; and to celebrate our civil rights, including the right to choose your own state of mind.”
But despite all those points, Goodman says the only one legislators are willing to hear is the note on fiscal responsibility.
“I’ve been going around the country meeting with legislators in a lot of states who are keen on reforming the drug laws just on the fiscal point of view,” he said. “If that’s how we’re going to get it done, fine.”
Ending the drug war is his foremost issue, but as a state lawmaker he’s achieved notable success in passing legislation that enhances penalties for domestic violence and drunk driving. The rest of his platform is relatively in line with many other mainstream Democratic causes like climate change, health care, rebuilding infrastructure and reforming Wall Street.
But more than anything, it’s the drug war that Goodman believes will propel him into Congress next year in a district being vacated by Rep. Jay Inslee (D), who plans to seek the state’s governorship.
Provided he can win a seat in Congress, Goodman will still have a daunting hill to climb, especially in a Republican-dominated House that publicly wants nothing to do with drug policy reform. In spite of this reality, Goodman seemed undaunted, and said that he plans to continue his “quiet efforts” to educate fellow lawmakers.
“Every legislator I talk to, I try to find a link to drug policy,” Goodman explained. “Most of my colleagues, Democrat and Republican, get it, yet they don’t understand how to frame the issue to make it a winning issue for them. So, when I’m at the salad bar, or in the hallways just talking to my colleagues, I’m teaching them how not to be afraid of this issue and to frame it as I do… And those efforts are already bearing fruit.”
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