Officials in U.S. border towns, battered by an increase in Mexican drug cartel-related violence, are proposing drug decriminalization as a way to stem the rise in drug-related killings, CNN reported March 20.
"It's the least worst option to ending the cartel violence," said Robert O'Rourke, an El Paso, Texas city councilman. "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."
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard agreed that there is a need to examine all options. "We are not winning the battle," Goddard said at a congressional hearing in Washington. "Sixty percent of the battle is marijuana." Goddard has called for "at least a rational discussion" on ways to control marijuana and utilize drug treatment. "Frankly, we would have a profound impact on demand," he said.
Many of the approximately 1,000 drug-related deaths so far in 2009 are concentrated in Mexican border towns near U.S. cities like San Ysidro, Calif., El Paso, and Tucson, Ariz. "Tucson faces the toughest challenges in the drug war," said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee on Defense.
Both critics and advocates, however, question whether decriminalization would make a noticeable impact on the Mexican drug war. "The violence ebbs and flows," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "We're going to see the violence in Mexico go down, but the issue of decriminalization needs to be put out there as an option."