EL PASO — A veteran Border Patrol agent and a City Council representative told students at the University of Texas at El Paso that drug legalization and regulation is a better solution to the El Paso/Juarez region’s ongoing violence than the current prohibition laws.
The Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) UTEP chapter hosted District 8 city representative Beto O’Rourke and retired Border Patrol and Homeland Security agent Terry Nelson at the recent Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Border Conference.
A proposal to legalize narcotics was brought forward at the El Paso City Council earlier this year by O’Rourke as a solution to the escalating drug cartel violence that claimed 1,600 lives in 2008 in Ciudad Juarez and more than 10,000 others in Mexico since 2007. O’Rourke’s proposal called for the governments of Mexico and the United States to work together and re-examine the policies on drugs. Reaction against the measure was swift. A letter from U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) stated that crucial federal funding for the city would be withheld if such legislation were passed; yet no specific amount was stated in the letter to be withheld. He told the City Council that debate on the issue could come later. O’Rourke’s proposal made national headlines but was vetoed by Mayor John Cook.
O’Rourke told the students that he was pleased to have heard UTEP student input at the debate on the legalization of narcotics at City Council. “They were amongst the most refined and educated about the subject matter,” he said.
“Drugs don’t cause crime, prohibition causes crime,” was a phrase reiterated several times by LEAP spokesman Nelson to a classroom of UTEP students. LEAP is a 10,000-member organization that believes in the legalized regulation of all drugs in order to decriminalize. “We believe that the current war on drugs is a total policy failure,” Nelson said.
Nelson worked in law-enforcement for three decades. His service included the US Border Patrol, US Customs Service, and Department of Homeland Security and was directly involved in counter-narcotics missions in the “war on drugs.” “Prohibition is a luxury we can no longer afford,” said Nelson. “It has only empowered and enriched drug cartels.”
Nelson’s power point presentation showed crucial information on the positive outcome of drug regulation rather than prohibition. Many American’s are not aware that the current illegal drug trade yields $500-billion in revenue a year —eight percent of the world’s total trade revenue. This illegal drug world trade is untaxed and unregulated. If a tax were imposed on this revenue it could pay for the treatment of all drug addicts in the United States, according to Nelson.
The United States has the highest number of drug users in the world. Prisons are massively over-crowded. America’s prisons house more people in jail in the world than Russia and China combined. This amounts to 22 percent of the world’s prisoners but only having 4.6 percent of the world’s total population, Nelson said.
Most convicts are serving time for minor drug possession and they are treated as social outcasts after serving their sentences. This crime leaves 1.96-million children without a parent or sibling at home destroying American families, according to Nelson.
Statistics show that 74 percent of Americans think that the “War on Drugs” is a failure. “If you have to regulate something then it has to be legal,” Nelson said. “A system of regulation rather than prohibition is a more ethical and reasonable public policy approach. It is time to do what is morally right, not what the law tells you to do,” he said.
For more information visit LEAP .
Click here to download letter from U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes.