El Paso Officials: Legalizing Marijuana Could Help Juárez

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Photo: Ruben R. Ramirez/El Paso Times
El Paso City Rep. Susie Byrd spoke concerning the drug violence taking place in Juarez during a press conference at Lion’s Placita at the foot of the Paso Del Norte Bridge Monday.

​Two city representatives from El Paso, Texas, called a news conference Monday to say they believe reforming drug laws and legalizing marijuana would help reduce drug cartel related violence in Mexico, reports Diana Washington Valdez at the El Paso Times.
City Reps. Beto O’Rourke and Susie Byrd, joined at the border’s Paso del Norte Bridge by fellow city Reps. Steve Ortega and Ann Morgan Lilly, displayed a declaration in support of Juárez, the Mexican city just across the border from El Paso which has been wracked with horrifying violence as drug smuggling cartels vie for supremacy and market share.
​”Those who think they have the moral high ground by supporting prohibition are not giving proper attention to the disastrous consequences of that tragically misguided policy,” said Oscar J. Martinez, a history professor and border expert at the University of Arizona who is also a native of Juárez.


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Photo: Ruben R. Ramirez/El Paso Times
Oscar J. Martinez, foreground, a history professor at the University of Arizona and an El Paso resident read a statement concerning the drug violence taking place in Juarez during a press conference at Lion’s Placita at the foot of the Paso Del Norte Bridge Monday.

​The cure has been much more deadly than the disease itself,” Martinez said. “The price of prohibition — turning cities like Juárez into killing fields of massive proportions — is totally unacceptable and morally repugnant.”
Byrd said Monday’s gathering at the bridge, which also attracted college students, academics and activists from west Texas and southern New Mexico, was a call to action. She asked supporters to sign the declaration and contact U.S. federal lawmakers and President Obama before Wednesday’s state dinner with Mexico’s President Calderón.
The group held its news conference at a border crossing where U.S. federal officers regularly seize drugs and arrest suspected smugglers.
State Rep. Marisa Marquez (D-El Paso) said she did not advocate drug use, but stood with those favoring marijuana legalization.
“I was there to support this new resolution because it calls for us to recognize the dignity of the people getting killed in Juárez,” Marquez said. “We cannot overlook the civil rights violations and atrocities occurring.”
More than 5,150 people have been murdered in Juárez since 2008. Mexican authorities say most of the violence is due to drue cartel wars.
According to Mexican officials, the Juárez homicide rate is 139.2 per 100,000 population, compared with Chihuahua’s statewide rate of 97.5 per 100,000 and Mexico’s rate of 11.6 per 100,000.
“You have the deadliest city in the world on one side of the bridge and the second-safest city in the U.S. on the other,” O’Rourke said of Juárez and El Paso.

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