El Paso

  • by NORML October 9, 2014

    betomemeNORML PAC is endorsing Representative Beto O’Rourke (TX-16) for re-election the the US House of Representatives.

    “Rep. O’Rourke is an ardent supporter of reforming our nation’s marijuana policies,” stated NORML PAC Manager Erik Altieri, “In just his first term, he has proven to be an intelligent and pragmatic politician with a long future in front of him. We strongly encourage voters to support his re-election campaign to keep a true reform champion in Congress.”

    Representative O’Rourke issued the following statement to supporters and voters on the topic:

    “Those of us who live in this region, in El Paso and Juarez, have a unique perspective on the war on drugs. We know that billions of dollars in cash, drugs, guns and arms are transited through this community. We know that billions of dollars in federal resources from the United States and Mexico are spent on law enforcement to try and stop that illicit drug trade. And we also know, all too well, the suffering that accompanies that black market trade in illegal drugs. It is because of that experience and looking back over the 40-year, failed war on drugs that I’ve come to the conclusion that at least when it comes to a drug like marijuana, we owe ourselves, and especially our kids, a much better policy.

    As a rational and humane country, we can decide, as we did with alcohol that the harms in the prohibition of marijuana far outweigh any gains in security and in our efforts to keep these drugs away from our fellow citizens.

    If you support my work and advocacy on this issue, I hope I can count on your help.”

    For the next 24 hours, Rep. O’Rourke will be running a “Powered by People” campaign with the goal of raising $123,200 in amounts less than $200 to illustrate that everyday citizens can compete with special interests in politics and issues such as marijuana law reform drive voter engagement. If you are interested in donating to this campaign you can do so by clicking here (donations are tracked so donations made through this link will show as support for his marijuana reform stance).

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director May 30, 2012

    In early May, Ellen Rosenblum rode to a landslide victory in the Oregon Democratic Attorney General Primary with marijuana law reform being a central plank in her platform. It looks like it has happened again, this time in the Lone Star state.

    In the Democratic primary for the House seat representing El Paso, eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes faced an unexpected challenger in Beto O’Rourke, who formerly served on the El Paso city council. The race garnered media attention, largely focusing on O’Rourke’s support for marijuana legalization.

    O’Rourke had been vocal in his critique of the drug war, telling the Huffington Post in April that, “you have 10,000 people killed in the most brutal fashion in Ciudad Juarez in the last 10 years, without a single word from the congressman about what we can do to change the dynamic and stop the bloodshed.” He also stated that, “it is clear to me that what we’re doing is a failure.”

    During his second term on the city council, O’Rourke championed a resolution that urged the re-examination of the drug war and went on to author a book on the subject.

    Beto’s support of marijuana law reform became the focus of attacks from his opponent, Reyes, in the final days of the campaign. Reyes lambasted O’Rourke’s position as soft on crime stating that “my opponent seems to think that recreational use of marijuana is okay with him, and that’s the group he hangs around with — but it’s not for me, it’s not for my grandkids.”

    Reyes feared ending prohibition would lead to widespread use around schools and children. “I don’t want to live in a community where people think that it’s okay to light up a joint and parade around elementary schools and junior highs,” he said.

    Despite these attempts to turn O’Rourke’s rational support for the reform of marijuana policy into a political liability, the voters decided otherwise. Last night, O’Rourke claimed victory, with 50.4% of the vote. Silvestre Reyes, despite the advantage of holding the office for eight terms, only received 44.4%.

    Let’s hope this is just another in an ongoing wave of pro-reform candidates being elected into office, replacing those who employ tired drug war rhetoric to continue the costly failure that is cannabis prohibition. The people want it. If the politicians aren’t willing to take a stand and change the policy, it is time we start changing the politicians.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 8, 2009

    Meet Hawaii’s Republican Governor Linda Lingle. On Monday, Gov. Lingle vetoed Senate Bill 1058, which called on the legislature to merely study “issues relating to medical cannabis patients and current medical cannabis laws.”

    Specifically, SB 1058 called for the formation of a legislative task force to:

    (1) Examine current state statutes, state administrative rules, and all county policies and procedures relating to the medical marijuana program;

    (2) Examine all issues and obstacles that qualifying patients have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

    (3) Examine all issue and obstacles that state and county law enforcement agencies have encountered with the medical marijuana program;

    (4) Compare and contrast Hawaii’s medical marijuana program with all other state medical marijuana programs; and

    (5) Address other issues and perform any other function necessary as the task force deems appropriate, relating to the medical marijuana program.

    In her veto address, Gov. Lingle alleged — laughably — that the mere act of examining the medical marijuana laws of Hawaii and a dozen other states violates federal anti-drug laws.

    “I am returning herewith, without my approval, Senate Bill No. 1058. … This bill establishes the medical cannabis task force … to review issues related to (Hawaii’s) medical marijuana program and make recommendations for any proposed legislation and rules. … The medical task force is unnecessary because it would attempt to deal with issues raised by medical marijuana users that can only be addressed by circumventing federal law.

    Keep in mind that just days earlier lawmakers in Rhode Island overwhelmingly approved legislation to allow the state to license nonprofit facilities to produce and dispense medicinal cannabis to qualified patients. Yet in Hawaii the Governor would have us believe that just gathering feedback from patients and local law enforcement regarding the state’s nearly ten-year-old medical cannabis program somehow violates federal law. It’s an absurd position and no doubt Gov. Lingle, who vetoed a similar task force bill last year, knows it.

    Of course, the true motive behind Gov Lingle’s action — and the similar actions of her fellow prohibitionists — is to silence any sort of public or political debate surrounding America’s failed marijuana policies.

    This was the motivation behind President Obama’s decision to ‘laugh off’ the issue of marijuana law reform during his online town hall this past March. Silencing free speech was also the driving force behind the actions of members of Congress who earlier this year threatened to withhold funding from the city of El Paso, Texas, if they so much as dared to hold an “honest, open national debate” regarding US drug policy. And surely this was the motivating force behind a South Dakota Judge’s decision this week to bar longtime NORML advocate Bob Newland from engaging in any public advocacy of marijuana law reform for one year. (Full disclosure: Bob Newland, under the banner of SoDakNORML, had been leading the petition drive to place a medical marijuana initiative on the 2010 state ballot. In other words, Judge Delaney’s decision isn’t simply limiting Mr. Newland’s constitutional rights to free speech, it’s also potentially limiting the voting rights of all South Dakotans.)