Calling America's war on drugs another Vietnam when it should be another World War II, attorney general aspirant Dan Lungren suggested Monday that the forfeiture of essential privileges, such as driving a car, should be employed to punish the casual drug user.
For too long, the former Republican congressman said, the prime emphasis of drug programs has been on the trafficker, when it should also have been aimed at the average "Joe Doaks" who may only have been caught smoking a joint.
Lungren proposed that a series of laws be passed to deter the casual user by forcing him or her to risk the loss of driving privileges, a professional license or eligibility for state and federal benefits if discovered possessing even a small amount of drugs.
"If we're going to have a war on drugs, we ought to decide whether it's going to be the Vietnam War or World War II," he said. "We as a society have to make a major commitment to eradicate drugs in this country. Either that, or we ought to give up. And I don't believe in giving up. . . .
"We have to recognize the user is as much involved in the drug process as the trafficker because without the user, there's no use for a trafficker. What's the message when you condemn the trafficker and excuse the user?"
Lungren, the only Republican so far to enter the race for attorney general, gained public visibility two years ago when he was appointed by Gov. George Deukmejian to become state treasurer but failed to win Senate confirmation.
Now back in the public spotlight as a candidate for his party's nomination for one of the the state's highest offices, he gave his views on a variety of topics during a breakfast with The Times' Sacramento Bureau. They included:
- Abortion: Characterizing his position as strongly pro-life, Lungren pledged as attorney general to carry out the law, but acknowledged that in a "perfect world," he would like to see all abortions outlawed except those to protect the life of the mother.
- Ethics: He promised that if elected, he would establish a special unit to deal with public integrity issues. He said the unit would investigate and prosecute cases of public misconduct when there were multiple jurisdictions involved or when a local district attorney for whatever reason might want to "hand off" the case to someone else.
Lungren also said the Legislature should be required to rotate memberships on "juice" committees, influential panels where members tend to receive a steady stream of contributions from special interests.
- Death Penalty: If he is elected attorney general, he said, he would appoint his best "legal minds" to handle capital punishment cases. But he said the timing of executions is still "in the hands of the court."
- Public Confidence: To improve public awareness of state government, he said a television channel similar to C-Span should be established to enable viewers to watch the conduct of state business. At the same time, he said campaign financing laws should be reformed to increase voters' confidence in elected officials, but the reform should not go so far as to require the public financing of elections. He said he would favor a law requiring candidates to raise half of their campaign funds in their district.