Early this week, a major blow was struck against the modern War on Drugs. Faced with a unprecedented drug crisis threatening to spill over its already porous borders, the Mexican legislature decriminalized the possession of drugs intended for personal use.
Done relatively quietly because of a worsening Swine Flu outbreak, the Mexican lower house approved a measure that had already passed the Senate to allow Mexicans to carry up to five grams of pot, half a gram of cocaine, .04 grams of meth, and .05 grams of heroin. The bill also acts to eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug dealers.
The bill now awaits the signature of President Felipe Calderón, which is expected to happen shortly. Though Calderón had gained a reputation as a staunch enemy of local drug cartels, he offered up the decriminalization legislature as an emergency measure to loosen the burden on Mexico’s prisons and overtaxed law enforcement.
According to Rafael Ruiz Mena, head of Mexico’s National Institute of Penal Sciences:
The important thing is… that consumers are not treated as criminals. It is a public health problem, not a penal problem.
The referred to public health problem has become a serious drain on Mexico’s resources. As we reported last month, the addiction rate in Mexico has increased by 50% since the violence between the government and cartels began to escalate. A fragmenting of the traditional cartel structure has flooded the Mexican market with cheaper, purer substances that have moved street level dealing and use out of any semblance of control.
It’s a shame that the situation had to deteriorate to this point before the Mexican government agreed to take steps toward adopting a more rational drug policy. Perhaps transitioning to a system that seeks to help non-violent addicts (instead of demonizing them) will restore the people’s faith in Mexican government, and stem the breakdown of Mexican civil society.Russ
The Mexican Senate approved a measure Tuesday that would eliminate penalties for possession of several drugs, including marijuana. Proposed by conservative President Felipe Calderon, the bill would legalize possession of up to five grams of pot, half a gram of cocaine, and traces of harder drugs such as meth and heroin. The bill also would eliminate mandatory federal sentencing for small-scale dealers.
Following a nationwide debate on the efficacy of President Calderon’s escalation of violence against local drug cartels, several regional leaders have publicly supported a national policy of decriminalization. Former Presidents Ernesto Zadillo (Mexico), Fernando Cardozo (Brazil), and Cesar Gaviria (Columbia) all endorsed a return to progressive drug politics in the wake of a staggering rise in drug-related violence.
Succumbing to public pressure, Calderon proposed the legislation with the hopes of relieving some of the burden on local law enforcement, and allowing a more focused pursuit of high level drug traffickers. The bill awaits the endorsement of the Mexican lower house before it can be passed into law.Russ
In the midst of its worst drug-related violence in decades, the Mexican Congress has planned a three day debate on the feasibility of legalizing weed. The talks are planned to conclude (not coincidentally) a day before President Obama arrives to discuss the future of American and Mexican drug war efforts.
Any move towards decriminalization would surely irk the American delegation, who have been repeatedly dumping billions of dollars into assisting Mexican military forces with their efforts to battle several incredibly well financed and entrenched drug cartels.
Dubbed “Plan Mexico” by its detractors, the plan has the US on the hook for over a billion and a half dollars in technology and training, with further provisions coming down the pipe including the delivery of several brand new Black Hawk helicopters. The debate will also chafe the sensibilities of President Felipe Calderon who has staked a reputation on a more violent and brute force-like approach to his country’s drug problems.
Alternatively, the debate comes with the blessings of three former presidents: Mexico’s Ernesto Zedillo, Brazil’s Fernando Cardoso, and Columbia’s César Gaviria. These leaders maintain that a decriminalization campaign could vastly reduce the income stream of cartels. It’s estimated that marijuana accounts for 60% of cartel profits. This speaks to the massive volume of Mexican weed in circulation given that Mexico is also the largest US supplier of both cocaine and methamphetamines.
Having already dismissed legalization proponents in his own country, a southward-bound President Obama may find a less receptive audience than he’s used to.