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El Paso NORML pushes for legal marijuana in Texas

By: Stacey Welsh

EL PASO, Texas -- One local group hopes Texas learns from Colorado's new state law and gives marijuana the green light. El Paso NORML, or the El Paso chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, held its first meeting Saturday.

"We're going to try to be educating the public in our community on the benefits of it. We want to be able to raise money so we can send people to groups like veterans and patients," group leader Colt DeMorris said.

Despite this, some critics said Colorado's law can do more harm than good.

"I think that will just be interfering with people who are trying to stay clean, and I just really don't agree with that," San Elizario resident Eungi Chaparro said.

Chaparro said she is a recovering drug addict, and now attends narcotics anonymous meetings to stay on the right track.

"For us, it's still a drug. Being a recovering addict, it is a drug, and for it to be legal, it's like saying it's OK. I don't think that's OK," Chaparro said.

NORML chapters exist across the country, and in other major Texas cities like Dallas and Houston. El Paso NORML supporters hope the group's efforts catch the attention of state lawmakers.

"We just had a recent poll that says 53 percent of Texans support the legalization of marijuana and 58 percent (support it) at the national level. Now you're talking about a majority of people in the country viewing marijuana policy differently," state Rep. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said.

Rodriguez said legalizing marijuana in Texas could keep thousands of people out of Texas prisons a year and save the state millions.

"These are not people that are hardened criminals. These are our children. These are young people, for the most part, that we're incarcerating and ruining their careers and their lives," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he supports El Paso NORML's cause, he said it's not realistic to expect a conservative state like Texas to adopt a law to legalize marijuana anytime soon.

"This is an issue who's time has come, and we have to make some changes. There's a lot of opposition on the other side, from law enforcement that I used to work with to other government officials," Rodriguez said.



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