Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 or Julie Roberts at 505-983-3277
The Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) will meet today in Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske are expected to announce the Obama Administration’s strategy for dealing with border violence and drug cartels.
“The violence on the US and Mexico border is spiraling out of control because of the Mexican drug war. We are hopeful that Obama’s new strategy will bring real change, and not more of the same policies that are failing our nation and communities,” said Julie Roberts, acting director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “We need solutions that improve public safety and keep our country safe, but we also need to look at the big picture of drug demand in this country. Access to substance abuse treatment and reducing the demand for drugs is necessary to truly make an impact on drugs and border violence.”
According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 20 million Americans used illicit drugs within the past month. It is estimated that close to 40,000 New Mexicans alone need but are not receiving substance abuse treatment. While thousands of Americans struggle with drug addiction with little to no access to substance abuse treatment, drug trafficking organizations on the border continue to thrive.
For months, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have battled it out with the Mexican government, the U.S. government, and each other, with violence escalating on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. Since 2007, the Mexican drug war has claimed the lives of more than 7,500 people, almost double the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since 2003. More than 200 Americans have died in the conflict so far.
Support in both the United States and Mexico is growing for major shifts in global drug policy. In El Paso, Texas, where several Mexican mayors live and commute to work out of fear they and their families will be killed if they live in Mexico, the city council passed a resolution in January calling on Congress to consider and debate drug legalization to reduce prohibition-related violence. In February, the Latin-American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, a high-level commission co-chaired by former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, called for a “paradigm shift” in global drug policy, including decriminalizing marijuana, and “breaking the taboo” on open and robust debate about all drug policy options.
More recently, the Arizona Attorney General, citing evidence that Mexican drug trafficking organizations get 60 percent to 80 percent of their revenue from marijuana, suggested national policymakers debate legalizing marijuana as a way of putting drug trafficking organizations out of business. More than 40 percent of Americans, and over 50 percent of Canadians, say it’s time to legalize marijuana, according to recent polls. (Support is close to or over 50 percent in some western U.S. states and among Americans 30 and under.)
“The time has surely come to give serious consideration to taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “That wouldn’t solve all of Mexico’s and America’s prohibition-related problems but it would prove invaluable in breaking the taboo on open debate and honest policy analysis, without which there can be no long term solutions to today’s challenges.”