Mexican President Calls for Drug Legalization Debate

After presiding for years over the bloodiest drug war escalation in history, Mexican President Felipe Calderon is finally ready to discuss legalization.

MEXICO CITY — President Felipe Calderon said he would consider a debate on legalizing drugs Tuesday as his government announced that more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug violence since he launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006.

"It's a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions)," he said. "You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides." [AP]

It's just an earth-shattering concession from the man who staked his presidency on a desperate attempt to prove that aggressive enforcement could somehow restore peace and order. Now, with the streets stained in blood and corruption permeating the highest levels of government, Calderon appears poised to confront the crushing reality that there's just no upside to any of this. He needs room to maneuver, and after exhausting every traditional tactic in the drug prohibition playbook, there remains only one conversation left to be had.

Of course, Calderon was careful to clarify that he's acknowledging, rather than endorsing, the legalization argument:

But Calderon has long said he is opposed to the idea, and his office issued a statement hours after the meeting saying that while the president was open to debate on the issue, he remains "against the legalization of drugs."

Riiiight. He's a politician and surely realizes that paying lip service to a touchy subject like this serves only to give it momentum. Posturing aside, Calderon knows exactly what happens when you open this door. He can see it already in the American press, and I can only imagine that he's now perfectly willing to witness the emergence of a sizable movement for reform in Mexico. If he weren't, you can bet he'd never dare drop the "L" word with a microphone at his mouth.

Whether he intended to or not, Calderon has spent his presidency performing the most compelling imaginable exhibit in the failure of prohibition. After sacrificing so much, his only chance at redemption may depend on his willingness to take the lead in learning something from the smoldering nightmare that now surrounds him.

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Holy crap, I thought this was

Holy crap, I thought this was an older article about former President Vicente Fox until I read further and saw President Calderon's name.


borden's picture

Holy crap is right...

Holy crap is right...

Oh, yes! I live in Mexico - it's about time!

Where i live, gangs funded primarily through drug money have gotten waaay stronger since Calderon began his drug war. They now charge protection money to many local businesses - some businesses have closed down to avoid them. People in my town have died because of this - the head of public security was shot in broad daylight in the centre of town, the police station for the highway cops was shot up, killing one cop, bodies have been found in the trunks of cars, the son of a business associate of my husband was killed because his dad was resisting pressure to pay extortion demands.

I wasn't passionate about drug prohibition before - but i sure am now. Legalize it! 


It would be nice to hear about how Mexican society has changed for the better or worse since the Calderon regime enacted decrim policies. Any know? Are there any journalistic accounts about first hand street use?

too soon

Bear in mind that decrim has only been policy for a couple of years. During those years, the country has suffered a serious recession, and a horrendous drug war. I'm sure there are op-ed pieces about individual experiences, but broadly, there is no noticeable change, and compared to other things, it's kind of a 'who cares' issue in the pulbic's mind anyhow.

Calderon needs to explain why marijuana is illegal to begin with

by justifying why alcohol use is treated so much nicer. If he doesn't understand that alcohol is a drug, or doesn't understand that it has a catastrophic relationship to violence that cannabis simply doesn't have, then he very badly needs to be educated about these facts. If he thinks cannabis using citizens don't deserve a reasonable explanation as to why they are considered criminals, then he is beneath contempt as a leader.

What Calderon said - translation of various comments

This article covers the news conference in which the legalization debate comment occurred. A direct translation of the initial comment is:

"I think it should be had [a debate], there being a democratic plurality, and how good that we have that in the country."

The article goes on:

The President referred to if the best argument in favor of legalization is that the reduction in the price of narcotics in the black market will generate benefits - and they are products whose price is not determined nationally - "and beside us is the biggest consumer of drugs in the world, what we do regarding price will be irrelevant and we will only pay all the negative consequences and [gain] very little or none of the positives"

The article also quoted what he said about legalization when asked about it on March 28 of this year by CNN Internacional:

I believe it is a very difficult debate. But the main point in this sense is that if the US doesn't legalize or doesn't even raise this issue, there is no sense in us doing so... I can consider it, but it is useless to establish this kind of debate here [in Mexico], or try to take measures in this sense. I am not in favor.. I am not in favor of legalization. But the main points of the arguments in favor of legalization are the ways to reduce black market prices in order to reduce violence. Now, if the United States, the most important consumer, establishes the price, the United States is establishing the black market. There is no point in developing countries, the smallest economies, trying to legalize or modify the problem by economic methods, because it would be absolutely useless. And probably we could even aggravate the problem even more. For example, we could try to do that in Mexico and we would receive traffickers from all over the world, from Afghanistan to Indonesia, or from South America. Thus, it is the position most dangerous for us. So, it is a very important debate. I am aware that it is very difficult and very delicate. There exist serious arguments for and against. I am not in favor. I believe that it is possible to uphold the law. Permit me to say that my principal objective isn't to eliminate drugs, isn't to end consumption. That is impossible.

Calderon - he's a complicated man. He makes some very interesting points here.

Elsewhere i read that Calderon has raised the issue now in part because California is going to vote on marijuana legalization. That gives him a reason to say that legalization has begun in the States, and so the black market price problem could be resolved.

Also, he has to do something before the next election, or his party is going to get its ass kicked.

cocaine decriminalization

I had a real change of view on drug legalization a few years ago. I had a friend who confronted me that rather than just accept a status quo of miseducation laying a foundation for further cruelty, I should really rather being going for what the truth and my ideals actually were. That means that I needed to deal with two issues on cocaine decriminalization and the legalization of any drug for that matter. The impact of the black market on purity and quality and consequent harm (most harm is fights over turf), and why it is that someone uses a particular substance; namely pain relief, relief from depression, and feeling good in the case of cocaine. In britain, they prescribed cocaine to addicts and thus got them in contact with effective health care and got them high quality product so that their health risks are minimized. It also takes out the greed factor since the trafficking risks are reduced down to nothing. It worked so good that they ended the program; not making enough money and killing enough people. The drug war in mexico is about killling people or my posts this morning would not have been blocked so effectively. So here is my prayer again; Please in the name of God and the Virgin Mary, stop killing each other. In Love, in the name of the saviour Jesus Christ and all the saints and angels, known and unknown, stop killing each other now.

                                                                         Lyle Courtsal

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