The quiet border town of El Paso has reportedly become a trailblazer in the effort to reform marijuana laws in Texas.
According to the Guardian, El Paso’s proximity to Ciudad Juárez—”the Mexican city so ravaged by drug cartel violence that until recently it was the murder capital of the world”—has actually spurred many locals to support marijuana legalization (or at least decriminalization).
“The believe the decades-long U.S. ‘War on Drugs’ has militarized the border and put ordinary people under constant surveillance, disrupting lives and fracturing communities without achieving results that justify the emotional, cultural and economic costs,” the Guardian reported.
With Border Patrol seizing 44,000 lbs of marijuana in the El Paso area last year, residents believe that legalizing the herb would harm cartels’ income streams and, in turn, take away much of their power.
“The cartels are bigger and stronger than they’ve ever been and what have we really done that’s thwarted their efforts? Nothing,” Justin Underwood, an El Paso attorney, told the Guardian. “I am of the opinion that human beings are going to do drugs, period. Human beings are going to drink alcohol. I accept these things as facts and as long as you have a demand you will always have a supply, no matter what.”
“I don’t know that it would reduce crime in El Paso, which is already the safest city in America—but it would help to reduce cartel crime in Mexico,” U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, explained. “Today, Mexican cartels enjoy billions of dollars in profits from U.S. drug sales, profits that go to hire young men and women, to buy politicians, police and judges, and allow some to commit crime with impunity.”
Of course, El Paso faces an uphill battle in the conservative state. Despite 11 cannabis-related bills that were introduced this year in the Texas legislature, the only one to pass was a restrictive (some would say “worthless“) bill legalizing certain cannabis oils to treat severe epilepsy.