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US, MEXICAN governors to study drug trafficking as health issue


TAMPICO, Mexico (AP) _ Governors from both sides of the Mexico-U.S. border have agreed to study drug trafficking as a health issue and not a crime.

On Friday, the last day of the 19th annual Border Governors Conference in the Gulf of Mexico port of Tampico, officials announced they would form a commission of scholars from the 10 U.S. and Mexican states along the border to study drug smuggling from a public health perspective. Mexican governors proposed the idea, which was praised by New Mexico Gov. Gary E. Johnson.

The conference includes California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the United States and Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora and Tamaulipas in Mexico. California Gov. Gray Davis dropped out at the last moment to deal with his state's energy crisis.

Johnson, a two-term Republican, has become one of the United States' leading proponents of the legalization of drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin. A former drug user himself, he believes drug use is a health problem, not a crime, and is pushing for state legislation to that effect.

He believes ending the prohibition on drugs would reduce violence, corruption and many other problems in the border region.

Chihuahua Gov. Patricio Martinez said he would support legalization of certain drugs to dilute the power of criminal groups that benefit from the black market.

``This should be studied, analyzed and looked at to see what the people want and what are the effects from a different perspective that considers not only their prohibition but also in given time their approval for medicinal purposes or for rehabilitation or for other reasons,'' Martinez said. ``We need to study all aspects of drug use, especially marijuana.''

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