Wednesday, January 14, 2009

El Paso, Texas, Calls On Congress To Debate Drug Legalization: Dems Refuse

As reported in Huffington Post:

The city of El Paso buckled to unusually explicit federal government pressure Tuesday and withdrew a call for a national debate on ending drug prohibition.

Last Tuesday, the El Paso city council voted 8-0 to express solidarity with its sister city in Mexico, Juarez, which has seen its murder rate double this year alone as the Mexican government has waged war on powerful drug cartels. To slow that violence, the resolution called for "an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics."

That was enough to get Washington's attention.

Mayor John Cook vetoed the resolution and Rep. Silvestre Reyes, a Democrat who represents El Paso in Congress, lobbied each councilmember, making it clear that if the resolution calling for a debate passed, El Paso would risk losing money in the upcoming stimulus legislation. Five Texas House representatives made the same threat.

The article concludes:

In December, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said that the state should consider legalizing marijuana, noting that three-quarters of the cartels' business comes from pot.

On Tuesday night, after hours of debate, O'Rourke argued -- unsuccessfully -- that bowing to federal pressure would set a precedent they should avoid. "All we're asking for is a conversation, and no important issue in the history of the United States -- social, criminal, legal or otherwise -- has ever been harmed by having an open discussion. That's all we're asking for today," he said.
"It's not just this issue. It sets a precedent that when debate is to be chilled, when positions are to be changed, people higher up will threaten us that we'll lose our money, and you have to ask yourselves if you can live with that."

Reyes, however, told the Huffington Post that he doesn't oppose a debate on legalization. He only opposed the timing, coming as it did as Obama was meeting with the Mexican president and Congress was debating the stimulus.

"If it's still an issue [after the stimulus passes], I'm not opposed to perhaps even entertaining a hearing," said Reyes. "I can look at that if they want to pursue it."


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