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Waiting to Inhale: Drug War Hypocrisy in El Paso

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Oh the irony. This morning I read with some amusement an article in the El Paso Times about the Mayor bailing his granddaughter out of jail for marijuana possession.

I savored the irony for a moment, but then I started to feel angry. Across the river the citizens of Juarez are under siege in a battle between the Mexican government and drug cartels. More than 23,000 people have died since 2006. The U.S. is funding this “war” with billions of taxpayer dollars. All of this blood and treasure spilled over the right to sell marijuana and other drugs to the U.S. market.

El Paso City council members Beto O’Rourke and Susie Byrd have been right all along to question whether marijuana should be legalized. They have advocated for some time that it be regulated and taxed like tobacco or alcohol. Mayor Cook has been a vocal opponent against the notion of legalization. And now we have the mayor down at the city jail bailing his granddaughter out because she was caught in Lubbock with less than two ounces of pot.

Marijuana is the top moneymaker for the cartels. It’s a given that legalization won’t solve the problem, but it will do a heck of a lot more to cripple the cartels than an 18-foot wall or National Guard troops.

I think Americans are getting tired of the hypocrisy, and (I hope) tired of the Drug War’s bloodshed playing out in Mexico and on our city streets. A recent poll by the Texas Tribune seems to hint at this with 69 percent of participants saying that they would support the legalization of marijuana in some form.

Our own President admitted to smoking pot when he was young in his book “Dreams From My Father.” When asked during his campaign for the presidency if he had inhaled (a stupid question) he replied: “That was the point.”

Does anyone really believe the cartels will just go away? Not as long as Cook’s 21-year old granddaughter and millions of other Americans are buying what they’re selling.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.