Crime and Violence · Human Rights and Civil Society · Justice in Mexico

Calderón: Regional Drug Policy Must React to Marijuana Legalization in Colorado and Washington

11/19/2012—Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón recently expressed his distress over the new marijuana legalization laws passed in Colorado and Washington. Rather than taking a stance on the “adequacy” of the laws as a tool for reducing drug-related crime, he urged world leaders to engage in “discussion” and “debate” on this major change in global drug policy.

“We [in Latin America] have been insisting for decades that drug consuming countries [such as the U.S.] reduce drug consumption. This hasn’t happened, and probably isn’t going to.” Instead, he suggested, we must ask if “there is another alternative to stop the flow of dirty money and murders that courses through our countries[.] And this inquiry must look at all alternatives, because we know that the flow stems in a large part from the black market structure [of the drug industry], which perhaps would generate less money and less appetite [for participation] if it were regulated differently.” According to Fox News Latino, Mexican drug cartels are the largest supplier of marijuana to the U.S. market.

Calderón spoke before heads of state of Spanish and Portuguese nations at a plenary session of the 22nd Ibero-American Summit in Cadiz, Spain last Thursday. The Mexican president has spent his term in office struggling to lead a law-enforcement offensive against drug trafficking in his own country, which has left over fifty thousand dead in its wake.

Calderón focused his speech around the urgent need to respond to the regional policy schism caused by these new laws. In the southern half of the hemisphere, drug cartels continue to corrupt and control governments, and take the lives of countless citizens. Meanwhile, north of the border, in Colorado and Washington, marijuana production and consumption will now proceed without legal impediment.

In Latin American countries today, he lamented, “a rural farmer who sows half a hectare [of marijuana] is persecuted and punished, and each year thousands of young people fall prey to organized crime. While we put our lives on the line, now, in [Colorado and Washington] drugs will be produced, sold, and consumed with total freedom. This is a paradigmatic change with respect to what has existed up until now in global drug policy.”

Calderón implored the international community to take concerted action to evaluate all possible drug policy alternatives moving forward. Last Monday, the leaders of Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica joined him in requesting that the Organization of American States study the new laws’ impact, and that the United Nations’ General Assembly hold a special session on the topic. World leaders, he emphasized, must also consider wider implementation of legalization policies, as the illicit nature of drug trafficking helps makes it so lucrative. In Mexico alone, explained Calderón, criminals enjoy over 20 billion dollars of drug revenues annually.

While recognizing that region’s nations may now need to redesign their strategies against organized crime, he warned against backing down “even one step” in a maintaining a tough stance against drug cartels, or relaxing efforts to strengthen social or legal institutions Latin America.

“From the Andes to the United States, all of our countries make up a route of death, a route delineated by the northward flow of drugs, migrants, human trafficking victims, tainted money, and illegal arms. This route of death has, unfortunately, made our region one of the most violent in the world.” Calderón has pointed out repeatedly throughout his presidency that this is a flow that, in his opinion, would stop if the United States and other drug consuming countries would act to end demand at its end points.

“Calderón critica legalización de marihuana en estados de EU; se producirá a ‘niveles industriales,’ dice.” Vanguardia. November 17, 2012.;seproduciraanivelesindustrialesdice-1421911.html.

Rodríguez, Yadira. “Reprocha Calderón a Estados Unidos legalización del consumo de mariguana.” W Radio Mexico. November 17, 2012.

“Passage of Marijuana Laws Hurt US Drug War Cred, Mexico President Says.” Fox News Latino. November 14, 2012.

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