Mexican border city grapples with possibility of legalizing marijuana

CIUDAD JUAREZ – Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled this fall that individuals have the right to grow marijuana for personal use, but on the border many are divided over the issue.

Some in this border city, which became a bloody battleground for rival drug cartels fighting for lucrative smuggling routes to the U.S., say they believe decriminalizing marijuana will reduce violence.

‪”Drug trafficking would go down and there would be fewer people involved in violence,” said Raul Parra, a nursing student in Ciudad Juarez.‬‬‬‬

Parra was shot in the leg in 2010 when gunmen attacked a high school birthday party, killing 15 people and injuring 13. Investigators in Mexico said young hitmen mistakenly targeted the party.‬

Many of the victims of the notorious birthday party massacre were student-athletes.

The mother of a football player killed at the birthday party is among those who oppose the effort to decriminalize marijuana.

‪“I don’t think our young people and children are ready for legalizing any type of drug,” said Lupita Davila, who honors her son Rodrigo’s memory by working with children and teens who survived years of bloodshed. ‬‬‬

‪”They were all victims of years of extreme violence,” Davila said.‬‬‬

‪She and her son’s football coaches started Jaguares Jovenes Por Bien, a non-profit organization that offers violence prevention workshops, football clinics and counseling for at-risk youth.‬‬‬

The number of murders has declined sharply in Ciudad Juarez, but the border city is coping with the lingering effects.

Dozens of folders for children who need psychological counseling are stacked on Davila’s desk. Many witnessed violence or lost loved ones.

‪”They are still passing through a very difficult stage,” Davila said.‬‬‬

‪Parra supports Davila’s effort to help youth and has donated his time to the organization. ‬‬

But he and others in Mexico are beginning to consider whether it might be time to legalize marijuana in spite of concerns about addiction.

“The same thing happens with alcohol and tobacco,” Parra said. “People who want to use will do so whether it’s legal or not.”