Pubdate: Sat, 03 Dec 2011
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2011 San Antonio Express-News
Authors: Beto O'Rourke and Susie Byrd
Note: Beto O'Rourke and Susie Byrd co-wrote "Death and Drugs: The Big 
Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico." O'Rourke is seeking the 
Democratic nomination to represent El Paso in the U.S. House. Byrd is 
serving her second term on the El Paso City Council.


In 1913, El Paso became one of the first cities to ban marijuana. 
Other communities soon followed suit, and by 1937 the drug was banned 
by the federal government. The drive to prohibit marijuana was not 
motivated by efforts to reduce dependence, improve health outcomes or 
alleviate criminal activity in the general population. Its 
prohibition has a much more dubious provenance in the fears and 
prejudices that accompanied growing Mexican migration at the 
beginning of the 20th century.

That march towards marijuana prohibition has helped create a 
lucrative marijuana economy. Mexican drug cartels smuggle many things 
into the US, but marijuana is the most profitable portion of the 
cartel's portfolio. Marijuana has the larger customer base with the 
most stable demand and steady prices. And, the Mexican cartels own 
the value of the marijuana from farm to market.

Nearly 100 years after El Paso enacted its initial ban on marijuana, 
the city bears daily witness to the violence that the marijuana 
economy inflicts on Juarez, our neighbor on the U.S./Mexico border. 
Since 2008, more than 9,000 people have been murdered in Juarez. The 
violence stems at least in part from a declared war between the two 
largest cartels for control of the El Paso/Juarez trade corridor.

In a ground-breaking 2010 Associated Press report, Martha Mendoza 
found that the U.S. has spent over $1 trillion on the drug war since 
it was first declared in the Nixon administration. And our return on 
that investment? In 2010, 35 percent of high school seniors reported 
that they had used marijuana, a number that has been fairly 
consistent since 1975. In fact, more high school sophomores tried 
marijuana last year than tobacco.

At some point, sooner rather than later, we must admit that our 
current course has not worked. It has made things worse for those who 
are most vulnerable (children and addicts), has led to bloated 
enforcement budgets at every level of government, has invited 
contempt for law and justice, has destroyed thousands of lives, and 
has left us billions of dollars poorer as a result.

At some point, we must challenge our elected leaders to enact laws 
that reflect reality and not an unattainable ideology.

We must come to a reckoning, much the same way we did 80 years ago, 
and repeal a prohibition that does more harm than good. If Washington 
won't do anything different, if Mexico City won't do anything 
different, then it is up to us - the citizens of the border who 
understand the futility and tragedy of this current policy first hand 
- - to lead the way.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom