Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Group including 2 City Council members asks feds to legalize marijuana

EL PASO -- A group that includes two El Paso City Council members today is asking the federal government to legalize marijuana. The event is timed in anticipation of a state visit to Washington, D.C., Wednesday by Mexican President Felipe Calderón.

El Paso city Reps. Beto O'Rourke and Susie Byrd are helping to organize the event, at 1 p.m. at the base of the Paso del Norte Bridge, which connects El Paso to Juárez. Oscar Martinez, a Juárez native and history professor at the University of Arizona, will speak.

The Obama administration is about to unveil an initiative to reduce the demand for illegal drugs in the United States. It will include more money for drug treatment.

But O'Rourke also wants Obama to lead an effort to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana.

U.S. residents spend $8 billion to $9 billion a year on marijuana from Mexico, O'Rourke said. That money helps fuel a drug war that has taken more than 5,000 lives in Juárez since the start of 2008, O'Rourke said.

"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.

O'Rourke has twice pushed City Council resolutions calling on the U.S. government to reconsider its drug policy. If they had been OK'd, they would have been only symbolic measures.

Marty Schladen may be reached at mschladen@elpasotimes.com;546-6127.

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