Faced with a mounting death toll in his war with powerful drug trafficking organizations, Mexico President Felipe Calderón has moved to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, according to a Reuters report Thursday afternoon. The only other source reporting the news Thursday evening was the Mexican news agency Notimex.
The measure comes as part of a public security proposal aimed at combating the traffickers with better coordination among security forces. But Calderón's moving to decriminalize drugs was a surprise move. His predecessor, Vicente Fox, sent a similar bill to congress in 2006, only to pull it in the face of pressure from the US and critics in both countries who said it would create "drug tourism."
Under the proposed legislation, people carrying up to 2 grams (0.07 ounces) of marijuana or opium, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin or 40 milligrams of methamphetamine would not face criminal charges -- if they voluntarily agreed to undergo medical treatment "for their pharmaco-dependency." Those amounts are considered "for immediate personal consumption."
"What we are seeking is to not treat an addict as a criminal, but rather as a sick person and give them psychological and medical treatment," said Sen. Alejandro González, head of the Senate's justice committee.
People caught possessing up to a thousand times the personal dose units (about 4 ½ pounds of pot, a bit more than a pound of cocaine, or about two ounces of heroin or speed) would face criminal charges as drug possessors by the Common Public Ministry (or local courts). People caught possessing quantities larger than that would be treated as drug traffickers and dealt with by the Federal Public Ministry (or federal courts).
The idea is to free up police to go after the drug traffickers -- in other words, to intensify the deadly battle against the drug gangs. Prohibition-related violence has killed more than 3,000 people in Mexico this week, including nine persons whose executed bodies were found in Tijuana Thursday morning, making a total of 33 people killed in the last four days.