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April 20, 2009 -- The Hill (DC)

Pot Legalization Favored By Some To Stem Violence

By Michael Gleeson

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

A growing chorus of lawmakers is openly calling for the legalization of marijuana as a measure to stop the escalating violence along U.S.-Mexico border.

The legislators who have endorsed legalization are Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).

However, the chances of legalization occurring soon seem slim.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs recently said that President Obama does not support the legalization of marijuana.

While a change occurring on the federal level appears remote, Paul believes that the tone of the debate is shifting.

As a result of the raising tide violence along the border, Paul said the public and Congress are beginning to "wake up" and take notice of the relationship between border violence and marijuana.

The question of whether marijuana should be legalized has been triggered as result of the violence on the border associated with the lucrative, cross-border drug trade -- estimated at $10 billion annually.

The lawmakers also claimed that the war on drugs has failed.

I think that there has been an honest, very honest, sincere attempt to win the drug war, and that it is not a winnable war," Rohrabacher said. "I don't think there is anything more they can do to try to make the drug war work."

McDermott said, "Clearly, people all over the country are using marijuana. We have filled our prisons at enormous costs...and we have no money for education."

He added, "We spend more, and more, more money in [the Drug Enforcement Administration], and rounding up people, and spraying fields, and all this stuff. And, from a social policy, I don't see any reason not to legalize it, control it, sell it, [and] tax it."

Calvina Fay, executive director of Drug Free America Foundation, strong disagrees. "I can't understand how anyone thinks that legalizing drugs is going to stop the violence," she said. "To think that drug traffickers in Mexico are going to fall in line and pay their taxes if marijuana is legalized is just flawed thinking."

Proponents of legalization lauded the legislators.

We would welcome a serious debate on the issue. The evidence is clear; legalizing marijuana will reduce its price and the violence surrounding it," said Dan Bernath, assistant director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.

No legislation seeking to legalize marijuana has been introduced in the 111th Congress. Rohrabacher said politicians are concerned about the potential political fallout if they spoke out in favor of legalization.

There are a lot of people who understand that [the current war on drugs has been a failure], but they are afraid to politically say so," Rohrabacher said.

"If it was a vote -- a blind vote where nobody knew who was voting -- you would have overwhelming support for legalizing marijuana out there, but they will never vote for it because they are afraid of taking on a controversial issue."

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