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Comment Box: Legalization and Life on the Border

We're about halfway through our trip, so we thought it would be a good time to go through some of the questions and comments you've left on the blog.

As with any story about drugs, there have been many questions about legalization or decriminalization. "Laheadle" and "am2233" tweeted about this topic using the #mexborder hashtag. Many others have left comments in the blog suggesting legalization is the only solution.

In Mexico, there is a similar movement among policy wonks and activists to decriminalize small amounts of drugs. People who make their money from drugs--smugglers, dealers and law enforcement--tend to be against any such plans, preferring to keep the status quo.

Drug consumption in Mexico is tiny compared to the United States, so among average people on the streets, the legalization argument doesn't come up much. In general, drug use here is viewed more as a health issue, not a legal issue.

Other commenters find the legalization argument to be an interesting concept, but didn't think it would work because addiction would increase. "bobfbell" wrote: "Even if we were to experience a temporary reduction in drug related crime, the larger question is do we, as a society, want to take the easy way out for us and condemn our children to a pretty bleak and hopeless future? Trust me, that is what drug addiction is all about."

"Utahreb" commented on our story Friday about the small town cop who lacked bullets when attacked. He, like other commenters, questioned how wisely U.S. aid is being used in Mexico. Until recently, very few American tax dollars went to Mexico to combat drug smuggling. With the Merida Initiative that went into effect this year, the U.S. is providing Mexico $400 million worth of equipment to help stem smuggling. The equipment doesn't include the types of weapons a small town police force would use. Much of the assistance goes to buying several helicopters, but also includes night vision goggles, detection technology, software and training. All of this aid would go to Mexican federal agencies. It's likely the police force we profiled in Ascension would see little of the aid.

"knjincvc" wanted to know more about how Jose Lucio Hernandez, the drug smuggler we profiled, was able to get the dope into the U.S. After a week on the border, we heard of so many different ways. In short, smugglers try every way to get drugs here. Hernandez didn't tell us exactly how he did it--we asked! Just yesterday, we heard about a smuggler putting drugs into a working car transmission. We're hearing more reports of drug smugglers using ultra-light aircraft to fly them over. We reported earlier about the increased use of submarines to haul drugs north. Traffickers also just put them in trunks of cars and hope they don't get caught; they hike them through the desert; and they pass small packages through the border fence in places. American officials have also been bribed by the cartels. There have been a few cases of Border Patrol and customs agents on the take, but small town sheriffs are more common culprits.

We've been surprised at how easy it is to cross back and forth between the two countries as we've made our way West. Several people have commented on how unique the border area is, culturally and economically. "JBC1" wrote in about this, saying "The border is not as rigid as many think. People go back and forth and families and the economy are dependent on this fluidity." We've certainly found this to be true during our time here. "walkerbert" found the opposite to be true, suggesting the only way to fix the problem is by "shutting the border for a while." This seems like an impossible proposition not only because of the wide open spaces, but because of the economic dependencies that are unique to the border region.

Thank you for following our trip. Keep your comments coming!

By Travis Fox and William Booth  |  June 19, 2009; 5:11 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A Small Town Cop, Out-Gunned by Traffickers
Next: Restoring Natural Life on the Border


Crop Dusters...

This is probably the most common way to bring drugs in through the Imperial Valley of S. California.

Posted by: ElCentroCaBoy | June 20, 2009 7:39 PM | Report abuse

K.i.s. s. SHUT THE DAMN BORDER DOWN!!!Station national guard w/guns to shoot to kill--Arrest & Deport all Illegals/anchors!!! Get this country back from the Hispanics is priority - the rest w/take care of itself!!! I am a DEMOCRAT working to keep this country from 3rd world status--Join Us

Posted by: sendthemback | June 21, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

On the news - drug smugglers tried to bring in drugs on the underside of a surf board on the CA coast. Thankfully they were found and arrested.

I, too, want our immigration laws enforced. I am tired of the bleeding hearts who insist that illegal aliens are so necessary for our country. This is an invasion - an act of war - and should be fought as such.

Posted by: Utahreb | June 22, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

We desperately need to make the U.S. Government stop allowing illegals in the country. The Supreme Court stated that we had to provide schooling for their children. Since then there is no stopping any benefits to illegals.


Posted by: elainekramer | June 22, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Illegal immigration is a factor of economic disparity. Good jobs in Mexico and Central America equal no illegal immigration. Illegal immigration and drugs are only lightly correlated. And they are correlated in that a drug economy sucks capital out of the affected region (you may think that is counter-intuitive, but it is true), decreasing local employment opportunities and increasing illegal immigration.

The only way to end drug addiction is to legalize drugs. Not legal the way alcohol is legal (though for pot it probably wouldn't be that bad), but legal the way antibiotics are legal. You need a prescription and some sort of medical supervision. You cannot be denied a prescription, but your health is monitored and treatment programs are always available. Perhaps the WaPo should do a story on Portugal and their legalization. They reportedly saw a decrease in addiction rates.

Posted by: caribis | June 22, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Amnesty is just one step away. Agjobs has been introduced by the house and it is a path to legalization for ag workers. Senate is taking it up also. Not getting much attention, maybe because it isn't amnesty for everyone. But once you give it to some it becomes a slippery slope. It needs to be stopped now!

Posted by: tnlady_us | June 22, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

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