Dealing Death and Drugs

The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico



By: Beto O'Rourke / Susie Byrd

No more War on Drugs — a rational, cheap and compassionate response to narco violence in Mexico and U.S.

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Categories: Adult | All Books | History | True Crime

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No more War on Drugs — a rational, cheap and compassionate response to narco violence in Mexico and U.S.

Long before he was a presidential candidate, Beto O'Rourke Beto O’Rourke realized that the War on Drugs doesn’t work. This became obvious to O'Rourke and Susie ByrdSusie Byrd when they served as city representatives in the border town of El Paso, Texas. When they started to ask questions about why El Paso’s sister city Ciudad Juárez became the deadliest city in the world—8,000-plus deaths since January 1, 2008—Byrd and O’Rourke soon realized American drug use and United States' failed War on Drugs are at the core of problem. In Dealing Death and Drugs—a book written for the general reader—they explore the costs and consequences of marijuana prohibition. They argue that marijuana prohibition has created a black market so profitable that drug kingpins are billionaires and drug control doesn’t stand a chance. Using Juárez as their focus, they describe the business model of drug trafficking and explain why this illicit system has led to the never-ending slaughter of human beings. Their position: the only rational alternative to the War on Drugs is to end to the current prohibition on marijuana.

"If Washington won’t do anything different, if Mexico City won’t do anything different, then it is up to us — the citizens of the border who understand the futility and tragedy of this current policy first hand — to lead the way." — from the Afterword

Watch the Freethought radio interview with Susie Byrd here.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Dealing Death and Drugs will be donated to Centro Santa Catalina, a faith-based community in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, founded in 1996 by Dominican Sisters for the spiritual, educational and economic empowerment of economically poor women and for the welfare of their families.

Beto O'Rourke is a fourth-generation El Pasoan. He previously ran as a Democratic candidate for U.S. President, after a campaign for the Senate. He served three terms the House of Representatives, and two terms on the El Paso city council.

Susie Byrd, past city rep for El Paso, runs the District Office for U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar. She is the former sales director of Cinco Puntos Press and co-edited The Late Great Mexican Border: Reports from a Disappearing Line (Cinco Puntos Press, 1996). She lives with her husband and children in El Paso’s Manhattan Heights neighborhood, about a mile north of the international border. Read some of the backstory behind the book in the the Texas Tribune article "Meet the small El Paso publishing house behind the book Beto O'Rourke co-wrote about legalizing pot"

3 reviews for Dealing Death and Drugs

  1. The Texas Observer
    “A levelheaded, analytical exploration of why the drug war isn’t working, and how the regulated legalization of marijuana could help stem a hemorrhage of blood and money… Dealing Death and Drugs almost overwhelms with statistics, but it kind of has to.”
    While public support for the legalization of marijuana in the United States has risen significantly in the last few years, it’s still fairly uncommon for a politician to take a similar stance. It’s even more rare for a politician to do so in a book—and when he’s embroiled in an ugly race for a congressional seat.
    In late August 2011, El Paso City Council Member Beto O’Rourke announced his candidacy in the Democratic primary for Texas’ 16th Congressional District seat. His opponent? Eight-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, with his deep pockets and endorsements from President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. The publication of O’Rourke’s book Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico in December of that year gave Reyes the ability to mislabel O’Rourke as an advocate for drug use.
    While O’Rourke’s book—co-written with fellow City Council Member Susie Byrd—is a levelheaded, analytical exploration of why the drug war isn’t working, and how the regulated legalization of marijuana could help stem a hemorrhage of blood and money, Reyes quickly dismissed it as a pro-narcotics screed. “My opponent seems to think that recreational drug use of marijuana is okay,” Reyes told The Huffington Post. “I don’t want to live in a community where people think it’s okay to light up a joint and parade around elementary schools and junior highs.”
    Susie Byrd claims that Reyes’ attacks had little effect on the race. “Voters who did not agree with Beto on the issue,” she told me, “appreciated that Beto took the time to really think through his stance and present it in a rational, thoughtful way.”
    In the end, El Paso-area voters chose O’Rourke in the May 29 primary. He will face Republican Barbara Carrasco in the November election.
    O’Rourke writes in the book’s introduction, “I can’t remember ever thinking about drug policy, much less caring about it.” Until 2008. That’s the year that Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels, and the city of Juarez—just across the border from El Paso—became a killing field. The murder rate in Juarez soared from an average of 200 a year to over 1,500 in 2008, more than 2,5000 in 2009, and 3,111 in 2010.
    Despite official claims to the contrary, it was clear that innocent citizens—not just those involved in the drug trade—were being killed in unprecedented numbers. In El Paso, O’Rourke, Byrd, and other City Council members proposed “an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics,” along with policy recommendations to stem prohibition-related violence. O’Rourke writes in the book that Congressman Reyes responded by threatening to withhold federal stimulus funds from the city. The resolution was voted down.
    O’Rourke and Byrd collaborated on a book instead, offering legalization “as the best of a number of terrible alternatives.”
    Dealing Death and Drugs almost overwhelms with statistics, but it kind of has to. So much of the argument for legalization comes down to numbers. The illegal drug market in the U.S. is valued at an estimated $60 to $80 billion annually. The U.S. spends nearly $50 billion a year to fight the war on drugs. Nearly 800,000 U.S. citizens were arrested in 2009 alone for possession of marijuana.
    – David Duhr, Visit Website

  2. San Antonio Current
    It makes sense that those with a truly front row seat to the destruction of the Drug War would give birth to a treatise on marijuana legalization … It’s a message that is sure to resonate with others if this tract can gain public notice beyond the reaches of the border, where residents are already intimately acquainted with the price of prohibition. —Greg Harman

  3. El Paso Times
    …a highly readable political manifesto for a more reasoned and enlightened drug policy…O’Rourke and Byrd are to be commended for courageously and intelligently broaching and suggesting concrete policy changes concerning controversial issues upon which the future of El Paso, Juárez and other U.S.-Mexican border communities depend.

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