DrugSense FOCUS Alert #450 – Sunday, September 5th, 2010
Today the Washington Post printed the OPED below which provides a
view of Proposition 19 from south of the border.
Your letters to the editor will let the newspaper know you appreciate
the newspaper’s providing readers with this viewpoint.
Proposition 19 news clippings may be found athttp://mapinc.org/find?272
The Proposition 19 website is at http://yeson19.com/
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Section: Outlook, Page B03
Copyright: 2010 The Washington Post Company
Authors: Hector Aguilar Camin and Jorge G. Castaneda
Note: Hector Aguilar Camin is a historian, a novelist and the
publisher and editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos. Jorge G.
Castaneda was Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003 and teaches
at New York University.
CALIFORNIA’S PROP 19, ON LEGALIZING MARIJUANA, COULD END MEXICO’S DRUG WAR
MEXICO CITY — On Nov. 2, Californians will vote on Proposition 19,
deciding whether to legalize the production, sale and consumption of
marijuana. If the initiative passes, it won’t just be momentous for
California; it may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit
from our costly war on drugs.
The costs of that war have long since reached intolerable levels:
more than 28,000 of our fellow citizens dead since late 2006;
expenditures well above $10 billion; terrible damage to Mexico’s
image abroad; human rights violations by government security forces;
and ever more crime. In a recent poll by the Mexico City daily
Reforma, 67 percent of Mexicans said these costs are unacceptable,
while 59 percent said the drug cartels are winning the war.
We have believed for some time that Mexico should legalize marijuana
and perhaps other drugs. But until now, most discussion of this
possibility has foundered because our country’s drug problem and the
U.S. drug problem are so inextricably linked: What our country
produces, Americans consume. As a result, the debate over
legalization has inevitably gotten hung up over whether Mexico should
wait until the United States is willing and able to do the same.
Proposition 19 changes this calculation. For Mexico, California is
almost the whole enchilada: Our overall trade with the largest state
of the union is huge, an immense number of Californians are of
Mexican origin, and an enormous proportion of American visitors to
Mexico come from California. Passage of Prop 19 would therefore flip
the terms of the debate about drug policy: If California legalizes
marijuana, will it be viable for our country to continue hunting down
drug lords in Tijuana? Will Wild West-style shootouts to stop Mexican
cannabis from crossing the border make any sense when, just over that
border, the local 7-Eleven sells pot?
The prospect of California legalizing marijuana coincides with an
increasingly animated debate about legalization in Mexico. This
summer, our magazine, Nexos, asked the six leading presidential
candidates whether, if California legalizes marijuana, Mexico should
follow suit. Four of them said it should, albeit with qualifications.
And last month, at a public forum presided over by President Felipe
Calderon, one of us asked whether the time had come for such
discussion to be taken seriously. Calderon’s reply was startlingly
open-minded and encouraging: "It’s a fundamental debate," he said. ".
. . You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key
arguments on both sides." The remarks attracted so much attention
that, later in the day, Calderon backtracked, insisting that he was
vehemently opposed to any form of legalization. Still, his comments
helped stimulate the national conversation.
A growing number of distinguished Mexicans from all walks of life
have recently come out in favor of some form of drug legalization.
Former presidents Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, novelists Carlos
Fuentes and Angeles Mastretta, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario
Molina, and movie star Gael Garcia Bernal have all expressed support
for this idea, and polls show that ordinary Mexicans are increasingly
willing to contemplate the notion.
Indeed, as we have crisscrossed Mexico over the past six months on a
book tour, visiting more than two dozen state capitals, holding town
hall meetings with students, businesspeople, school teachers, local
politicians and journalists, we have witnessed a striking shift in
views on the matter. This is no longer your mother’s Mexico —
conservative, Catholic, introverted. Whenever we asked whether drugs
should be legalized, the response was almost always overwhelmingly in
favor of decriminalizing at least marijuana.
The debate here is not framed in terms of personal drug use but
rather whether legalization would do anything to abate Mexico’s
nightmarish violence and crime. There are reasons to think that it
would: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has
said that up to 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels’ profits come from
marijuana. While some say the real figure is lower, pot is without
question a crucial part of their business. Legalization would make a
significant chunk of that business vanish. As their immense profits
shrank, the drug kingpins would be deprived of the almost unlimited
money they now use to fund recruitment, arms purchases and bribes.
In addition, legalizing marijuana would free up both human and
financial resources for Mexico to push back against the scourges that
are often, if not always correctly, attributed to drug traffickers
and that constitute Mexicans’ real bane: kidnapping, extortion,
vehicle theft, home assaults, highway robbery and gunfights between
gangs that leave far too many innocent bystanders dead and wounded.
Before Mexico’s current war on drugs started, in late 2006, the
country’s crime rate was low and dropping. Freed from the demands of
the war on drugs, Mexico could return its energies to again reducing
Today, almost anyone caught carrying any drug in Mexico is subject to
arrest, prosecution and jail. Would changing that increase
consumption in Mexico? Perhaps for a while. Then again, given the
extremely low levels of drug use in our country, the threat of drug
abuse seems a less-than-pressing problem: According to a national
survey in 2008, only 6 percent of Mexicans have ever tried a drug,
compared with 47 percent of Americans, as shown by a different survey
Still, real questions remain. Should our country legalize all drugs,
or just marijuana? Can we legalize by ourselves, or does such a move
make sense only if conducted hand in hand with the United States?
Theoretically, the arguments in favor of marijuana legalization apply
to virtually all drugs. We believe that the benefits would also apply
to powder cocaine (not produced in Mexico, but shipped through our
country en route from Latin America to the United States), heroin
(produced in Mexico from poppies grown in the mountains of Sinaloa,
Chihuahua and Durango) and methamphetamines (made locally with
pseudoephedrine imported from China).
This is the real world, though, so we must think in terms of
incremental change. It strikes us as easier and wiser to proceed step
by step toward broad legalization, starting with marijuana, moving on
to heroin (a minor trade in Mexico, and a manageable one stateside)
and dealing only later, when Washington and others are ready, with
cocaine and synthetic drugs.
For now we’ll take California’s ballot measure. If our neighbors to
the north pass Proposition 19, our government will have two new
options: to proceed unilaterally with legalization — with California
but without Washington — or to hold off, while exploiting
California’s move to more actively lobby the U.S. government for
wider changes in drug policy. Either way, the initiative’s passage
will enhance Calderon’s moral authority in pressing President Obama.
Our president will be able to say to yours: "We have paid an enormous
price for a war that a majority of the citizens of your most populous
and trend-setting state reject. Why don’t we work together, producer
and consumer nations alike, to draw a road map leading us away from
the equivalent of Prohibition, before we all regret our short-sightedness?"
Suggestions for writing letters are at our Media Activism Center
For the latest facts about marijuana please see
Prepared by: Richard Lake, Focus Alert Specialist http://www.mapinc.org
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