Pubdate: Fri, 26 Apr 2013
Source: San Antonio Express-News (TX)
Copyright: 2013 San Antonio Express-News
Author: Jamie Haase


This past November marked the 10th anniversary of the founding of the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That same month, residents in
Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana within their
states' sovereign boundaries.

Since marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, millions of drug
reform advocates await word from Attorney General Eric Holder on the
Justice Department's response to those referendums. In the meantime,
getting a response from Homeland Security on the issue is just as
critical - especially from the two DHS agencies tasked with securing
the more than 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border: Customs and Border
Protection, or CBP, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Among federal agencies, these entities have the most at stake when it
comes to ending marijuana prohibition, and it is long overdue for the
leadership at DHS to publicly admit the common-sense national security
logic for establishing responsible marijuana policy.

As an original member of Homeland Security who worked for both CBP and
ICE, I know firsthand that these agencies would be serving us more
efficiently in a world in which marijuana was legalized and regulated.
In thinking of what is to be gained by such a change in policy, two
names stand out: Brian Terry and Jaime Zapata.

The 2010 killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry will forever be
associated with the ATF's Fast and Furious scandal. However, marijuana
prohibition was the predecessor to the "walked" gun that killed him.
Terry was shot during an altercation with undocumented criminals in
the remote Arizona borderlands, criminals whose sole purpose in the
region was to poach marijuana smugglers after crossing into the United

The murder of ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata in Northern Mexico in
2011 can also be linked to marijuana prohibition. Zapata (with whom I
worked in Laredo in 2009) was traveling with a co-worker in the
Mexican state of San Luis Potosi when their vehicle was ambushed by
members of the Los Zetas cartel. After eventually being forced to
halt, gunmen surrounded their SUV and Zapata was fatally shot with an
AK-47 at point-blank range.

According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, Mexican
cartels earn approximately 60 percent of their profits from marijuana
smuggling, and in 2009, marijuana accounted for approximately 97
percent of all the narcotics seized by CBP.

The overwhelming majority of these busts occurred along the Southwest
border, and this shows that marijuana's illegality is not only the
primary financial driver for the cartels, but also the chief culprit
for the senseless bloodshed taking place across the Texas border.

With a new poll released by the Pew Research Center showing that 52
percent of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, it's an ideal
time for Homeland Security to take advantage of this shift in public
opinion. It's also a great time for Texans to reconsider the wisdom of
its marijuana laws.

Even though the attorney general is President Barack Obama's primary
intermediary when it comes to addressing state-level marijuana
legalization initiatives, he shouldn't be the only one with the
president's ear on this issue. Homeland Security should also have a
pivotal role in the decision-making process, particularly because the
primary mission of DHS is securing our borders.

The United States border with Mexico is 2,000 miles long and
impossible to secure. The United States border with Canada is more
than 5,000 miles long and impossible to secure. Marijuana prohibition
only makes these impossibles even more unpractical, while wasting
precious resources and threatening the lives of more Americans on the
front lines.

Jamie Haase is a former special agent of the Immigration and Customs
Enforcement's office of Homeland Security Investigations. He worked in
Baltimore and Laredo, and he's now a speaker for Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition.
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