New Mexico's top law enforcement official said this week he has resigned because of differences over Republican Gov. Gary E. Johnson's call for legalization of drugs.

Department of Public Safety Secretary Darren White said in his resignation letter, dated Tuesday, that he had supported Johnson's initial calls for a national debate on drug policy.

"This is no longer a call for debate. This is a crusade to legalize drugs and I don't share those beliefs," White said.

Johnson advocates legalization of hard drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

White, 36, said his decision to resign had been difficult because he was torn between loyalty to the governor and his own deeply held beliefs.

Johnson, 46, appointed White to his post, where he oversaw the State Police and emergency management operations, in 1995.

Johnson released a brief statement yesterday saying he had accepted White's resignation and appointed Frank Taylor, the chief of New Mexico State Police, to replace him temporarily.

White had criticized Johnson's stance on drugs as a "morale killer" for law enforcement personnel and spoken out against prison privatization, which Johnson supports.

Johnson's stance on drugs has drawn criticism from the state's Republican Party and President Clinton's drug policy director, Barry R. McCaffrey.