While Congress is considering major spending requests for security along the Mexican border to help curb drug violence, others are proposing a less-expensive but, some say, dangerous solution: decriminalizing drugs.
“It’s the least worst option to ending the cartel violence,” El Paso, Texas, city Councilman Robert O’Rourke told CNN in a phone conversation last week. “I thought our drug laws were silly, but you don’t realize how big of a problem you’re facing until it really gets brought home for you in your community.”
O’Rourke knows what it’s like to live in a border town gripped by drug violence. El Paso and its Mexican sister city Juarez share a street grid system, among other things.
“We feel the violence every day,” O’Rourke said. “The cartels control [Juarez], and that spills over onto the U.S. side. Decriminalizing drugs would take away a lot of the financial incentive for the cartels to kill. The violence would go down.”
The rising violence has prompted people like O’Rourke, and now Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, to examine all options.
“We are not winning the battle,” Goddard said at a congressional hearing this week in Washington. “Sixty percent of the battle is marijuana.”
He said he has called for “at least a rational discussion” on ways to take the profit out of marijuana and look at drug treatment.
“Frankly, we would have a profound impact on demand,” he said.
To O’Rourke, a rational discussion translates into an honest conversation about possible solutions to the drug war, even if that means decriminalizing drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to conclude the “War on Drugs” has been an abysmal failure, a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.
But, supporters say, legalizing drugs like marijuana also would energize a slumping economy. In California, which is billions of dollars in debt, state economists and politicians including U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez have said legalizing marijuana would pump $1 billion into the state budget.
“In 1932, people were making a big deal about prohibition ending. They asked, ‘What about the children?'” O’Rourke said. “What ending prohibition did was put guys like Al Capone out of business, and it helped our economy.”
It’s simply overdue. Marijuana use was made illegal primarily because the opportunist birdbrains in Washington weren’t collecting taxes from it – and didn’t have the backbone to face down the same sort of religious moralists who brought us the prohibition of alcohol.