Denise Dresser for Proceso 11-22-2012
Translated by un vato for Borderland Beat
MEXICO, D.F. (Proceso). --
1. As the election in the United States demonstrated, that country is headed towards legalization. Mexico should not keep fighting a war against a drug that is being legalized more and more. As Sergio Aguayo has written, the United States' legalization is "a slap on the face for Felipe Calderon and a lesson for Mexicans."
2. 32% of the population in the United States can now go to a dispensary to obtain marihuana for medical reasons. 11,753,000 inhabitants of Colorado and Washington approved the recreational use of marijuana. Around 50% of the population in the United States is in favor of some form of legalization of marihuana.
3. As argued in a study by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, the possible legalization of the drug at the state level in the United States could result in a significant reduction in income for Mexican drug traffickers.
4. Among the benefits that legalization could bring would be treating addicts as sick people, not criminals, decreasing the cartels' revenues, decreasing the violence and the number of deaths from the war against drug trafficking.
5. A report written by Carlos Zamudio Angles and Jorge Hernandez Tinajero shows the almost total lack of results obtained by the Distrito Federal (D.F.) police in their efforts to identify and arrest the individuals who head the gangs selling marihuana at retail. The police's efforts have focused on catching users and sellers in the act, not as a result of intelligence work. The sellers who are arrested are easily replaced by drug trafficking groups.
6. The persons arrested for consumption have to be set free because the law does not punish that act, and a survey of more than 300 marihuana users revealed that two out of three had been extorted by the police. That shows the limitations of a policy focused on combating drug sales by merely closing down retail locations or catching the people who use drugs.
7. One proposed alternative are the "cannabis clubs" to try to eliminate retail drug sales networks. These organizations would provide a series of real advantages to users. They would generate economic activity for the government through taxes; they would eliminate the need to go to illegal traffickers; they would guarantee quality standards that the illegal market does not provide; they would offer information services to reduce risks and health hazards.
8. Legalization would also help the grower, who would see his crops as a legitimate agricultural and business activity. The producer would have direct contact with the user and eliminate the middleman, who currently plays an illegal role.
9. Despite the war against drug trafficking, illegal consumption of drugs has not stopped, but rather, has increased in recent years. Drugs are now more available to the public than six years ago. In the Federal District (Distrito Federal), there were 5,000 drug retail locations in 2006; today there are 13,000.
10. Faced with this reality, even Felipe Calderon himself recently joined the leaders of Honduras, Belice, Costa Rica and Guatemala to ask the OEA (Organizacion de Estados Americanos) for a complete analysis of the social, political and health implications that legalization of the use, production and distribution of marihuana would represent for their countries.
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12. The opposition in Mexico to legalization -- 70% of those surveyed -- is based on the lack of information society has on the subject. Hence the need to discuss and disseminate the advantages and disadvantages that decriminalization would bring.
13. In every high level bi-national meeting for the past few decades there is talk that there will be a different focus, a different method to address the war against drugs and the violence it engenders, but that's not the way it is. The U.S. strategy -- that Mexico buys and applies -- continues to be the same.
14. Year after year, the positions remain the same. The United States' pat on the back of whatever president is in place, who is congratulated for his "courage" and "commitment". The usual list of joint actions, of efforts made to limit the supply of drugs in Mexico and limit the consumption in the United States. The expanded list of pilot programs that will be launched, the flow of weapons that will be controlled, the drug addiction studies that will be initiated. History repeats itself, government after government.
15. There is a growing United States involvement in Mexico -- in terms of presence, advice, equipment, training and resources-- but we haven't yet seen a substantial shift in the simplistic and counterproductive vision that has predominated for decades.
16. The time has come to question the vision, the supposedly unmovable premises, from which the war against drug trafficking derives: that the "war" against drugs can be won; that the United States can reduce the demand for drugs, and will attempt it; that the anti-drug policies of the United States should be the anti-drug policies of the rest of Latin America; that legalization could be good, but it will never happen.
17. The time has come to question ideas engraved in stone, tiresomely repeated by officials on both sides of the border, disseminated by U.S. policy makers and memorized by Mexican politicians.
18. Every one of the conventional premises in the "war" against drug trafficking can and should be confronted. Each of the arguments being raised needs to be reviewed. In view of the growing legalization in the United States, the war against drugs -- carried on the way it is today-- is ever more futile. Ever more painful.
19. Mexico needs to demonstrate its capacity to decide its own fate and make decisions that strengthen its national security, promote its political stability, build social cohesiveness. Going in that direction would involve viewing limited decriminalization as an instrument -- among others -- able to dismantle a market too powerful to be defeated by any government.
20. It's time for Mexico to begin a public debate, serious and wide-ranging, over the legalization of marihuana. Enough with dedicating more and more resources, more money, more weapons and more troops in a war that can never be won.