Weed green beats blood red
Legalizing pot here would help stop the drug-driven killing in Mexico
By Ellen Snortland 07/22/2010
On Nov. 2, please vote yes on Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which will finally decriminalize marijuana in California. Its passage will save lives and generate billions of dollars of revenue for us. As it is now, Mexican drug cartels and their drug wars continue unabated and hurt lots of people, including me. But my pain is nothing compared to the families whose loved ones have been butchered in the ongoing turf battles in Mexico. As I write this, I’m preparing to close a big chapter in the story of my life, one as a property owner in Mexico. I’m packing up my house just north of Rosarito Beach and that will be that. I can’t afford to keep my dream home and am forced to sell it.
In 1997, I saw the house that I had always dreamed of owning standing proudly on a cliff overlooking a white sandy beach in a community called San Antonio Del Mar in northern Baja. As I stood on the terrace, the salt air and sunshine kissed me while the dolphins jumped and played, calling “Elenita! Bienvenidos!” My house had been standing empty for eight years because everyone had been too scared to buy it. Why were they frightened? It was once the love nest of an imprisoned drug lord. No one wanted to face a now-free and furious drug baron when he knocked on the front door demanding back his dream house. I figured I would take my chances and, if he came back, I’d cross that particular gangster bridge when it appeared. I never did have to face the drug lord. But nonetheless, I have lost the house to the drug wars. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I bought the house — 4,500 square feet of oceanfront fabulousness — for a little more than $200,000, using money I had socked away for retirement. My logic was that I would use the house to retire, like many Norte Americanos do. Since it was only 13 miles south of the US border, it was simple to get back and forth between the two countries. Being a writer, it seemed to not really matter where I was geographically, now that the Internet has made borders virtually nonexistent. I wasn’t a retiree and still had lots of energy to pour myself into completing what had been started. Unfinished at the time of the former owner’s imprisonment, the casa had been abandoned and used to pay the seller, who was the drug guy’s lawyer. No problemo! I’d rehabbed three properties prior to my Mexico adventure and was eager to make the house mine. The first-floor suite was not even plumbed or wired. As the do-it-yourself queen, I knew what to do, and I was experienced in running crews if I had to. I used more savings, help from my sisters, hundreds of hours of sweat equity, the language and cultural skills of my “adopted” Mexican family and, about $60,000 later, I had one hell of a place to live in and retire. Or so I thought.
Now I’m selling it at a loss because once I moved back to the States, and the drug cartels started open warfare, I could no longer rent it and felt lucky to have a caretaker there whose only obligation was to pay the utilities. Despite being a virtual drug teetotaler, drugs have cost me a lot. Consider this: I was offered $700,000 for the house a mere four years ago, which I turned down. Donald Trump had also seen the beauty of my area and had started a seaside project three miles from my place. (Not that I like Trump, who has bailed on the project, but he does have an eye for priceless real estate.)
According to Alaine Lowell, my friend and colleague, marijuana expert and author of the upcoming book “Going Dutch: How Marijuana Can Save the Economy,” “Today, Mexico is on the verge of civil war with an estimated 27,000 fatalities since 2007, when Mexican president, Felipe Calderon, employed the army to fight their so-called War on Drugs” (growdutch.net)
All of a sudden my half-million-dollar-plus loss doesn’t seem so bad. Even a dear nephew of my beloved Mexican family has been kidnapped and murdered. So I am lucky to get out now since nothing in my area has sold in the past two years. Somehow, 27,000 reported murders in the past three years puts a crimp into real estate values and trumps the old real estate adage, “location, location, location.”
It is too late for Proposition 19 to help me, but passing it will help not only Californians, but Mexicans whose lives are impacted daily by the illegal trade of marijuana. Again, from Lowell’s book: “John P. Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, says that marijuana — not heroin or cocaine — is the ‘bread and butter’ of the Mexican drug cartels. Mexican drug cartels grossed $8.6 billion with marijuana sales alone.”
Please vote yes on Proposition 19. It will save lives — and retirement homes, too.
Ellen Snortland teaches writing in Altadena. Contact her at snortland.com.