Advertisement

Opinion

Opinion

Mexico watching California marijuana vote

October 27, 2010

Advertisement

— If California voters approve a proposition calling for the legalization of marijuana in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, get ready for a domino effect in Mexico and the rest of Latin America. It is not likely to be immediate, but it will be hard to stop in the near future.

Granted, the Obama administration would most likely challenge California’s Proposition 19 — it would allow adults to consume marijuana for pleasure — in the courts if it were approved.

Most polls show that the California proposal has a better than even chance of passing.

But during a visit to Mexico, I found few people in political, academic and business circles who don’t believe that passage of California’s Proposition 19 would have a big impact on this country.

It will be very hard for the Mexican government to keep up its U.S.-backed anti-drug policies, especially when it comes to cracking down on the marijuana trade, they said. How can the United States ask Mexico to keep up the fight against marijuana smugglers if the drug becomes legal in California?

Ricardo Najera, spokesman for Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office, told me that the Mexican government will continue its military offensive against the drug cartels regardless of what happens in California, but added that approval of California’s Proposition 19 would have a “demoralizing impact” on Mexico.

“If one country authorizes something that is prohibited in another country, it creates a very big problem for the country that is combating that particular crime,” Najera said. “It would discourage authorities that are working on that front.”

The last two Mexican presidents, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, have already come out publicly in favor of decriminalizing — or, in Fox’s case, legalizing — marijuana production and consumption.

President Felipe Calderon’s government opposes legalization, but Calderon has said he is open to holding a national debate about it. Several of the likely candidates for Mexico’s 2012 presidential elections have already said they will support legalization of marijuana if California votes for it.

Marijuana sales to the United States generate about $1.5 billion a year for Mexico’s drug cartels, and account for between 15 and 26 percent of the Mexican cartels’ overall income, a new RAND Corporation study says.

But experts disagree on whether legalization of marijuana in California would drain Mexico’s drug cartels of much of their income, or reduce their violence. This is because California is already a major producer of marijuana, and the cartels could always turn to other illegal activities — such as kidnappings for ransom or human trafficking — to make up for their lost marijuana income.

The Calderon government would most likely not shift toward legalization of marijuana if the drug is legalized in California because it has invested too much political capital in the war on drugs, which has claimed more than 28,000 lives over the past four years. More likely, Calderon would support moves within the United Nations to change international drug policies, many experts say.

“If California approves Proposition 19, we may see a snowball effect,” said Luis Astorga, a drug policy researcher with the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “Many countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal are likely to ask the United Nations to call for an international convention on marijuana, similar to other conventions that were held in 1961, 1971 and 1988. That would likely lead to a change in the world legal framework that deals with marijuana.”

My opinion: It would be a good idea to call for a U.N. Convention to establish once and for all whether — as marijuana legalization proponents say — marijuana is less addictive and harmful than alcohol or tobacco.

If that proves to be the case, then let’s go ahead and legalize marijuana, and use the billions of dollars that are now being spent on marijuana eradication, interdiction, and repression to help fund education campaigns and treatments to fight harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

At any rate, if Proposition 19 is approved, the impact of the vote will be greater abroad than in California, where medical use of marijuana has long been legal, and possession of small amounts of the drug are barely punished with the equivalent of a speeding ticket. Pro-legalization forces around the world would get one of their biggest boosts ever.

— Andres Oppenheimer is a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald. aoppenheimer@miamiherald.com

Comments

ToddStokes 3 years, 5 months ago

Andres Oppenheimer is wrong stating his opinion that if pot is legal then Mexico will have a harder time keeping the pot smugglers from plying their trade to an open market. The truth is there will be no demand for the mexican pot. Californians already grow their own, go to legal dispensaries, etc. I think use will not increase, pot heads, are pot heads....still better than drunks though, and to take anywhere from 10% to 25% out of the cartel's pockets is a good step forward. I don't think it will pass this election, but the train is rolling, next stop legalization across america. Outlaw cigarettes if you actualy care about poor people or the health of people in general!!!

0

stream47 3 years, 5 months ago

I'd hazard a bet that the great majority of the people who are against making marijuana legal once again, as it was before 1937, are those who have some personal stake in seeing it stay illegal. There's a huge industry of law enforcement agencies, local, state, and national, which will lose a lot of funding should the source of half of their "business" be taken away - we're talking about tens of billions of dollars here. Also, there's a huge drug rehab industry which will lose half of its court-ordered clientele, since very few people go to drug rehab for marijuana alone on a voluntary basis, and the caseload for probation and parole officers will undergo a sharp decrease, since a large portion of that caseload are marijuana offenders.

Of course, the great majority of these people are paid with state and federal tax dollars, so there should be corresponding tax relief for the rest of us, but for these people, it may mean the loss of their jobs, so they can be expected to find all sorts of arguments against legalisation.

I'm also assuming that all of these officials and law enforcement people are honest. One of the reasons for ending Prohibition was that the law enforcement apparatus had become corrupted, with a large percentage of the price of a bottle of liquor going to bribes, graft, and payoffs to crooked law enforcement officers and officials. It's certainly a possibility that this same thing may be happening today; there are reports that at least one Kansas police department narcotics squad was in the business of arresting dealers, taking their drugs, and selling the drugs themselves for their own gain.

One also hears of US Government agencies which derive much of their operating budgets from drug smuggling, especially CIA and DEA.

Finally, there are the Mexican drug gangs themselves which will be forced to find other means of doing business, or going out of business altogether. Drug gangs were not a problem until the late 1980s, coincidentally with the great increase in funding for the war on drugs... There are a lot of people who stand to lose big if marijuana is made legal once again, but it will be a win for the American taxpayer.

0

Kontum1972 3 years, 5 months ago

THC destroys cancer cells in lab rats

0

kernal 3 years, 5 months ago

Consider this. The predominant cash crops in the U.S. are corn, wheat, soy and marijuana. The first three are legit operations, are traded on the commodities exchange and any profits are taxed. But not marijuana; even though there is the drug tax stamp for it, most producers ignore it as they don't trust the revenue departments not to turn them in to the DEA. Then the cartels are cultivating it on public and private lands putting our people at risk, should they accidentally stumble on a growing site. There have already been killings of innocents who happened on a secluded growing operation. The cartels also trash the federal and private lands where they operate, both physically and environmentally. There's some speculation the cartels have been buying up land in the U.S. for growing pot in the eventuality it's legalized, although I've not seen any news backing this up - yet.

The government needs to quit looking at this with a "Reefer Madness" mentality.

0

75x55 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm curious as to how many of the tokers that seem to inhabit these regions have strong feelings against coal-fired power plants, animal cruelty issues with meat industry, the Dept of Defense, et. al.?

The horrors that are directly tied to drug cartels and their incredible strength in Mexico and other countries is directly attributable to those that insist on using this illegal product, and NOT the war on drugs. Supply feeds demand - as simple as that. Everything else is a sideshow to that immutable equation.

Think about it, when you're 'chillin', that you, you personally, have a culpable role in mass murders. All so you can cop a buzz. You must be so special.

0

Moderateguy 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm all for making MJ legal as well. Here's the deal though that comes with it. If you want to sit around on the sofa all day, eating Cheetos and watching Scooby Doo that's also your choice. If you lose your job and your housing because of it, society isn't responsible to take care of your lazy butt. You should be free to do anything you want as long as you're not harming somebody else or taking their stuff. The instant you line up for disability or unemployment because of your choice, you are taking our collective stuff. Freedom to choose also includes your freedom to fail, and my freedom to be free from you. Your life is not my responsibility and my life is none of your business.

0

somedude20 3 years, 5 months ago

Like Eddie Murphy sings, "Party all the time party all the time"

0

LoveThsLife 3 years, 5 months ago

If you legalize marijuana would it have the same laws limiting it's usage as tobacco and alcohol?

I have no problem with someone else smoking it, however I sure don't want to breath in that smoke second hand nor do I want to be on the road with someone who is high and operating a vehicle.

0

deathpenaltyliberal 3 years, 5 months ago

"booyalab (anonymous) says… I understand most of the economic arguments for decriminalizing marijuana, there's just the problem of the massive welfare state. If/when pot is legalized, usage will increase, which will increase the amount of low-income or unemployed pot users whose habits are being subsidized by everyone else. Another pot legalization argument I have an issue with is that of crime. There's this general consensus among libertarians and "libertarians" that the rampant crime is the fault of "the war on drugs" because of black markets and yada yada. Well, what about the people financially supporting the industry and the ones who want to make money in it? Do they bear no responsibility whatsoever? "

Wow, this argument has no logic whatsoever, just bleeding heart emotion. You don't know that legal MJ will create a lazy population. That is just an uninformed opinion. And if you don't want a "massive welfare state" then don't give out any benefits.

And how can usage increase anymore? The USA already has higher usage (near double) rates than any other country, including Portugal and the Netherlands, where it is quasi-legal.

And no, marijuana smokers bear no responsibility at all for the violence caused by immoral laws created by a corrupt government and enforced by a nanny state. If it was legal, there would be no black market or "drug kingpins". It is only the illegality that keeps the criminals in business. So the govt. and narcos are in business together, they need each other.

0

deathpenaltyliberal 3 years, 5 months ago

Got to agree with TS on this one.

But Corky's comments are typically inane. "Soros, California, blah, blah, blah...". At least come up with a reasonable argument, or don't waste everyone's time.

0

shanep 3 years, 5 months ago

I have NEVER seen a thread on this site where nearly everyone agrees, even Tom. All we need now is for Tinkie Winkie (i think that's it) to chime in: "Eh Oh Stoners..."

0

CorkyHundley 3 years, 5 months ago

Ban tobacco it is bad for you. Legalize pot because it is good for you. Weed smoke is so much better for your lungs than tobacco smoke.

A stoned republic doesn't mind what is done to them. They are easy going. That's why Soros is donating his money for the fight to legalize in California. Stoned people are nicer to him.

0

scopi_guy 3 years, 5 months ago

You take the good You take the bad You take 'em both And there you have pot brownies

0

pizzapete 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm hoping this passes and that the Mexican drug gangs take a big hit to their incomes.

0

LJ Whirled 3 years, 5 months ago

It's probably time ... the question is no longer whether to legalize marijuana. The key is HOW to legalize it. Does pot get treated like tobacco, where it is packaged and has to have a tax stamp and all that jazz? If so, does that just lead to a black market that give rise to smuggling and violence that parallels what is happening already? If not, then how DO you handle it?

I don't plan on smoking any weed ... pot or tobacco ... in the foreseeable future (or ever again), and I don't think it is a good choice for people to make, but I do think it is their choice to make, not mine, and that we need to move past the Prohibition Era (again) and help bring down the violence and corruption it breeds, just as it bred when alcohol was the target.

I can understand the frustration of those who indulge and believe they can do so safely and not suffer any particular ill effects, even if I don't totally agree with them. I have a good reference point, as, after nearly a century since the other Prohibition ended, it does piss me off that I can't buy a bottle of wine in the grocery store in Kansas, or have it delivered to my home from out-of-state. Backwardsland is not imaginary.

0

booyalab 3 years, 5 months ago

I understand most of the economic arguments for decriminalizing marijuana, there's just the problem of the massive welfare state. If/when pot is legalized, usage will increase, which will increase the amount of low-income or unemployed pot users whose habits are being subsidized by everyone else. Another pot legalization argument I have an issue with is that of crime. There's this general consensus among libertarians and "libertarians" that the rampant crime is the fault of "the war on drugs" because of black markets and yada yada. Well, what about the people financially supporting the industry and the ones who want to make money in it? Do they bear no responsibility whatsoever? No one forces anyone to use or become a drug kingpin. Do you want law enforcement to turn it's attention away from busting drug users and towards actions that you feel should be legal? Then STOP using. It's that simple.

0

QuinnSutore 3 years, 5 months ago

We're debating whether to legalize a plant that has thousands of industrial and medicinal uses, is easy to produce, is already pervasive in society, has less addictive potential than coffee, is impossible to overdose on, has no long term health effects in study after study, and has less immediate health effects on the body than alcohol, tobacco, and non-prescription painkillers?

Whether or not we legalize now, the fact that we're even debating it means it will be legalized soon. There's just no good reason not to when alcohol and tobacco are legal.

0

Flap Doodle 3 years, 5 months ago

The stock price for Cheesy Poofs, Inc will skyrocket.

0

QuinnSutore 3 years, 5 months ago

I'm buying stock in Taco Bell and Frito Lay, STAT.

0

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

"My opinion: It would be a good idea to call for a U.N. Convention to establish once and for all whether — as marijuana legalization proponents say — marijuana is less addictive and harmful than alcohol or tobacco."

That's already been firmly established, though politically distasteful to diehard drug warriors.

0

Tom Shewmon 3 years, 5 months ago

Decriminalize, trade or grow legally, tax it, regulate it.....and enjoy. But, as usual the federal gov't. will figure out a way to f it all up. How much longer will we screw around with this issue. Americans guzzle alcohol by the super tanker load and it is more harmful IMHO.

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.