Is El Paso Ready to Legalize Pot?

Many in the border town are ready to punt on pot prohibition.

By Rhonda FanningJuly 16, 2015 2:04 pm

The fight for legalizing marijuana has been gaining traction around the country. Some places might be considered predictable – the Pacific Northwest for example.

Other places, maybe not so much.

Take the case in El Paso, Texas. It’s a border town just across from Ciudad Juárez – a town so ravaged from drug cartel violence it was, until recently, the murder capital of the world.

But despite this, many El Pasoans are calling for reform to marijuana laws. Guardian journalist Tom Dart recently reported on the pot phenomenon. Here’s what he told the Standard.

On the history of marijuana prohibition:

“It was exactly 100 years ago [that El Paso made marijuana illegal] so that’s a nice twist… Looking at media reports from the time, it was believed that marijuana was extremely damaging to people’s health and…causing violence and crime and lawlessness.”

On law enforcement activity in El Paso:

“The area is flooded with border patrol and other kinds of law enforcement. It’s probably not surprising that things are very quiet [in El Paso] because you have saturation of enforcement on the northern side of the border. But that’s not to say drugs are not getting through in huge amounts because they are still…. It’s unknowable how much isn’t stopped in El Paso and surrounding areas.”

On why the people of El Paso want marijuana legalized:

“The argument goes that by legalizing marijuana you’ll cut off a major source of income from the cartels. … You’ll basically take a big step towards reducing the cartels, reducing their power and potentially reducing the violence in Juarez just south of the border. You have kind of the two factors at work. You have an opinion that it’s wrong to criminalize people for a relatively trivial offense. And on the other hand you have a bigger picture look at it … we need to find a way to stop the cartels. The war on drugs which is been going since the ‘80s and Reagan …it’s not working.”