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Mexico Opens Debate to Legalize Drugs to Combat Cartel Violence

LatinaLista — An issue that isn’t on the radar of any political hopeful today but is bound to be facing the nation within the next 2-5 years is the subject of revamping our drug policies.
There’s something inherently wrong with a policy that results in the disproportionate criminalization of members of the lowest socio-economic sector in the country.

And while there has always been a cry to reform the drug policy, the sense of urgency is going to increase within the next two years, not because of domestic activists on behalf of those jailed for nothing more than possession, but because of drug cartel violence in Mexico worsening due to competition in satisfying the US demand for drugs.
In fact, it has reached the tipping point in Mexico where this week one of the most influential businessmen in the country has called to begin a national debate on one way to neutralize the cartel violence — legalize all drugs.

The FBI’s 2006 Crimes in the United States report details the number of arrests in the country broken down by offenses.
The one offense that outnumbered “driving under the influence (1,460,498 arrests)” or “property crime (1,540,297 arrests)” was “drug abuse violations” with 1,889,810 arrests.
The number of arrests for drug abuse, and mere possession falls under that category as well, which means the person doesn’t even have to be a user, underscores the complaint Mexico has about our country’s insatiable appetite for outlawed drugs.
Recently, it’s been reported that there are new efforts to get the (U.S.) country and the government talking about legalizing one drug that is in common usage, and especially for medical patients — marijuana.
Just recently the American College of Physicians, the nation’s largest organization of doctors of internal medicine, with 124,000 members, released a paper calling for the federal government to ease up on the strict ban of using marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The group contends that the long and rancorous debate over marijuana legalization has obscured good science that has demonstrated the benefits and medicinal promise of cannabis.

The group accuses the federal government of turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the needs of medical patients and instead of trying to find a solution through further research of the drug’s properties, has instead spent money on focusing and publicizing just the negative elements.
It doesn’t seem to matter to the government that:

In the 12 years since California voters approved the nation’s first-ever medical marijuana law, several medical organizations — including the American Nurses Assn. and the American Public Health Assn. — have urged Congress to make cannabis a legal medicine. 

Travel host Rick Steves talks to audience members on the show Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation.
Another effort that is catching attention is one spearheaded by travel writer and television host Rick Steves. Because of his extensive traveling overseas and seeing firsthand how other countries address marijuana usage, Steves is attempting to bring the conversation to U.S. living rooms in a half-hour program called Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation.
Partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union, the show:

“Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation” invites viewers to consider whether these laws are working for us or against us.
What does marijuana law enforcement cost us in tax dollars?
How effective is prohibition at controlling marijuana use and availability?
What are the social consequences of marijuana prohibition?
Are the consequences of marijuana arrests and convictions fair? Are the laws applied fairly to all Americans?
How did we end up with these laws in the first place?
Is marijuana prohibition doing more harm than good?

However, talk of legalizing marijuana is mild compared to what Mexico is getting ready to debate.
Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, the president of one of the largest newspapers in Mexico, El Universal, feels there’s no other way to battle the violent drug cartels that have taken over his country and compromised security than to neutralize the root of the violence.

Solving the problems of drug trafficking lies in reducing the consumption in the United States and other countries, as well as, strengthening a national unified resolve to battle organized crime and unfortunately, the option left to us is to legalize its usage.”

With cartel violence infiltrating Mexico City, the tenor of the debate is bound to get more intense and blame directed at the United States for not taking a realistic look at our drug policies and realizing that maybe some drugs don’t need to be illegal.
If that was the case, there would be a lot less people in prison and a lot less lives wasted on both sides of the border.

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  • Horace
    February 19, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Another divisive issue that the US and Mexico will have to deal with. The drug dealers won’t even have to fight the Federales to cross the border. The Mexican police will just moonlight openly as protectors of drug producers and run across the border into Mexico with impunity when chased by the Border Patrol. That’ll really improve US-Mexico relations. Is it no wonder that Americans have lost respect for their neighbors to the south.

  • fash
    February 19, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Why are you viewing this as solely Mexico’s problem, Horace? They may produce much of the drugs, but we’re the ones consuming them. Perhaps if both countries legalized several types of drugs and regulated them, this wouldn’t be a problem; I can think of a few of my in laws who might still be alive if this had been done a long time ago.
    Anyhow, I can’t help but have positive feelings about this. At the same time, I have to wonder–would the drug lords allow their source of income to be neutralized? If a transition like this happens, it has the possibility of being a very difficult one, on both sides of the border.

  • Texano78704
    February 20, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    When the US enacted Prohibition (of alcohol), did it also prohibit the rest of the world from producing alcohol?
    And whom does drug prohibition serve? It certainly is not serving the citizens of the US, because drugs are still widely available. Despite criminalization of possession of even the smallest amounts of illegal drugs and Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” program, drug use continues to be higher than it is in countries where possession has been decriminalized.
    If it is not serving the citizens of the US, then who is it serving? Law enforcement receives billions of dollars every year for its “war on drugs.” Drug traffickers get a better price for their product, thanks to the modest efforts of law enforcement. The rich have an institutional method for depriving the poor of their vote. Cheap labor conservatives get a pool of oh so desperate labor when felony drug possession offenders are released from prison. Oh, and how about those privatized prisons? I hear they are cash cows.
    The US needs to seriously re-think its drug policies and switch from incarceration of drug users to treatment. Its attempt to spread drug prohibition around the globe (with the possible exception of Afghanistan), wreaks havoc in communities every where, not just here in the US. The populations México and most notably in Colombia suffer far more from the Uncle Sam’s drug habit.

  • Richard Grabman
    February 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I tend to discount the comments of people who talk about the “Federales” — that particular police organization having been disbanded several years ago.
    At any rate, you may recall that the Fox administration also proposed changes in Mexico’s drug possession laws (which, in reality tightened the definition of possession, not loosened them), but was followed by hysterical reactions by both the U.S. administration and the “liberal” press.
    The question for Mexicans is why they should suffer and die for OUR addictions.

  • Mallory
    May 19, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I agree completely.
    I can’t help but think that the main reasons we have not legalized drugs are..
    1. Politicians hate to admit they made a mistake.(Until the polls show they did)
    2. Prisons, DEA and other law enforcement do not want their budget cut.
    3. Alcohol & Tobacco users want someone to feel superior to.

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