Legalization: So Say They Now -- US and Mexican Officials Say No to Debating It

Representatives of the US and Mexican governments meeting at the US-Mexico Bi-national Drug Demand Reduction Policy Meeting in Washington, DC, this week took pains to make clear that neither government is prepared to consider drug legalization. Although legalization wasn't on the meeting's agenda, both Gil Kerlikowske, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), and Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos felt impelled to denounce it.
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"Legalization isn't a subject under discussion under the Obama administration under any circumstances," said Kerlikowske. Such proposals do not hold up "under the thinnest veil of scrutiny," he said. "The reasons for this are multiple: There is no evidence that legalization would reduce the violence or benefit the economy."

"In Mexico," said Villalobos, "and I want to emphasize this in a firm manner, there is a clear consensus to maintain the criminalization of the cultivation, transportation, possession, commerce, or use of substances identified as dangerous in the international conventions. We are convinced that the legalization of the use of drugs is not only dangerous and distant, but unviable in practical terms. Drugs aren't dangerous because they're illegal, they're illegal because they're dangerous," he added, stealing a hoary trope that is a favorite of UN Office on Drugs and Crime head Antonio Maria Costa.

But the consensus of which Villalobos spoke is badly tattered. The rejection of drug legalization comes amidst a rising clamor for a rethink of prohibitionist drug policies. The calls for change are growing increasingly loud south of the border, where Mexican President Felipe Calderon's militarization of the drug war has led to growing public dismay with its bloody death toll, accusations of human rights abuses by the military, and the campaign's inability to have an noticeable impact on the so-called drug cartels.

On Monday, Calderon's predecessor, Vicente Fox, once again called for debating legalization. "We need to end the war," he said. "It's time to debate legalizing drugs," he said, adding, "Then maybe we can separate violence from what is a health problem."

Similarly, at a conference in Mexico City this week, academics, attorneys, and activists joined former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria in calling for drug legalization. (See related story here.)

The officials also took some flak from north of the border. "The only solution to the current crisis is to tax and regulate marijuana," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Once again, Mexican and US officials are ignoring the fact that the cartels get 70% of their profits from marijuana. It's time to face the reality that the US's marijuana prohibition is fueling a bloodbath in Mexico and the United States."

Congress has approved a three-year $1.4 billion anti-drug aid package for Mexico and Central America, and this year the Obama administration is seeking an additional $310 million in anti-drug aid for Mexico.

"It is illogical, at best, to continue throwing money at this failed policy," Houston said. "The government will never eliminate the demand for marijuana, but it can put an end to the monopoly drug cartels currently hold on America's largest cash crop. Lifting marijuana prohibition would take away the cartels' largest source of income and the main reason for the horrifically brutal violence perpetrated by rival drug groups."

But if Washington and Mexico City just whistle loudly enough as they walk past the graveyard, perhaps they can continue to ignore the rising clamor just a while longer.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Drug legalization

End prohibition and you take the money out of drugs. Hence they aren't worth much, hence there is no reason for anybody to be mafia like anymore. When you make drugs illegal everyone using them becomes a criminal. Since you are already a criminal, then(and this does not apply to even the vast majority of drug users) it is really only a short hop to other criminal activity. As far as violence goes, the drug warriors trying to suppress the drugs are far more violent thant the business people involved in drugs. After all it wasn't the drug cartels that started this "war". It is not them that come around beating down doors and breaking into peoples houses to arrest them. Sometimes shooting elderly people in the process. However, as long as there is drug prohibition, there will be money in it and of course turf wars and all that goes along with that.

As far as marijuana(a racist word in essence) goes. It should be free. This business about taxing and controlling it is at least baloney. I won't pay tax on it. And I'll do my best to make sure it is "out of control". Canabis is a holy herb. It isn't Alchohol. Get over it. I find the tax and control argument as offensive as the prohibition is in the first place. NORMAL doesn't reflect my thinking on this and never will.

I am so with you!

I, too, find the tax and regulate mantra to be offensive. Cannabis should be treated no differently than cinnamon and nutmeg, which are also medicinal herbs (one which can get you high, but must be processed to make the dosage required to get you high smaller than the lethal dosage of the raw product -- MDA, MMDA, MDMA, etc, --, and one which won't get you high under any circumstances) or coffee and tea (both of which also have mind altering effects).

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Jean Boyd's picture


50% or more of the public realize that marijuana should be legalized. Vincente Fox and others want to legalize. Who is standing in the way of legalization anyway? Who would actually fight to keep marijuana illegal. It is the government, because the higher-ups in government are the prohibitionists as well as the drug cartels. One cannot exist without the other, however they are one in the same. The profit is enormous. So one would wonder, not everyone in government is profiting. No, the goverment officials and public that support the drug war are brainwashed. Similar to very poor people who vote for Republicans.

Very poor people

who vote for Democrats are just as "brainwashed" as those who vote for Republicans. The Democrat's policies are just as (perhaps even more) responbile for the very poor to remain very poor, and to be a growing element of our society instead of shrinking one. Get out of the left/right paradigm and look at how policies (from both sides) have affected those things they were created to "correct", every policy ends up doing the exact opposite of its alleged intent. When you subsidize something you get more of it -- welfare/poverty. When you ban something you make it more attractive to thrill seekers, which causes a larger demand for it, which creates a black market for the banned substance, which is very lucrative for those willing to take the risk of providing the banned substance. Simple.

Most policies of the federal government are completely unconstitutional, anyway. Start voting for candidates who support returning the federal government to its constitutional chains.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Responding to K's challenge

"There is no evidence that legalization would reduce the violence or benefit the economy."

I don't know how Kerlikowske is going to duck out from under this statement a few months from now, but taking it as a challenge, here's what needs to be done:

1. Alcohol:

Demonstrate that after legalization or more permissive conditions, cannabis begins to substitute for alcohol at parties, resulting in substantial reductions in date rape, gunplay, vehicular homicides, and $$ health consequences of binge drinking.

2. Tobackgo

Show that mj legalization will allow millions of ma and pa companies to produce and promote single-toke utensils presently banned as cannabis "paraphernalia" (that really means paranoid-infernal-alien), not only to cannabis users but to nigotine $laves, resulting in the extermination of the hot burning overdose $igarette industry and with it the FDA-estimated $193-bil./year US national health cost of $igarette smoking.

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