Mexico watching California marijuana vote

October 27, 2010


— 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


Tom Shewmon 7 years, 7 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.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't happen often, and this may be a first, but Tom is absolutely correct. Government intrusion in to the lives of citizens in order to protect the booze and cigarette lobbies is a national disgrace.

phoggyjay 7 years, 7 months ago

For once, I wholeheartedly agree with you Tom.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

My god, somebody call Ripley's! I agree with Tom!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 7 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.

jafs 7 years, 7 months ago

Also, in order to justify legalizing it, it should only have to be shown that it is not more harmful - equally harmful would be good enough.

QuinnSutore 7 years, 7 months ago

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

Flap Doodle 7 years, 7 months ago

The stock price for Cheesy Poofs, Inc will skyrocket.

QuinnSutore 7 years, 7 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.

pizzapete 7 years, 7 months ago

Gumby is gross. The new pizza place, Fat Freddies, that took over Gumby's old spot makes some great pies. Unlike Gumbys, you don't have to be stoned to enjoy it.

booyalab 7 years, 7 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.

barlowtl 7 years, 7 months ago

Anyone 80 yrs or older would have many memories of the prohibition, bathtub gin, speakeasy's,shootouts in the streets etc, Use of alcohol & drugs increases during hard times, takes the edge off the pain, at least temporarily. While I have yet to purchase my first depends, I do remember the times of prohibition, do you?

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

It's like the old joke where the patient says to his doctor "Doc, it hurts when I do this.", and he replies "then stop doing it." ...except imagine the thing the patient is doing is an extremely unnatural contortion that hinders normal bodily functions.

I'm not sure how your summary of the mafia's involvement in prohibition contradicts anything I've said. Yes, you could say the mafia was picking on people. But I'm not about to blame the government for their actions.

I feel sympathy for, say, Cubans who have to get Pepto Bismol on the black market. I don't feel any sympathy for someone who has to break the law in order to get the kind of high they want. There are about a million other things to worry about changing before that.

lawrencenerd 7 years, 7 months ago

So if somebody suffers from chronic pain you'd rather have them addicted to narcotic pain killers than smoking weed? You'd also rather the criminals get the money for the weed rather than it being taxed and creating revenue for the government? Considering the fact that it would become much cheaper and be a source or revenue, it'd be making money for the government, not the opposite. All those low income or unemployed people out there aren't just suddenly start spending money on things they wouldn't have before. In the case that you are making, it sounds like you'd support prohibition on cigarettes and alcohol as well, since people with less money than you can buy those legally as well. As already pointed out to you, alcohol prohibition didn't work, and made criminals more powerful.

Also, why do think Cubans have to buy pepto bismol on the black market? Drugs and health care in Cuba are massively cheaper than they are here. A medicine that costs a hundred dollars here likely costs a few cents in Cuba.

livinginlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

"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."

This that you've said is nothing but a misconception. Our society already runs rampant with perfectly productive professionals who choose to use. Likely, part of the reason this flies under the radar is that such individuals, due to current legislation, are better off not advertising everything they do in their spare time.

And besides, more important concerning this issue is the fact that people the world over suffer immensely due to the logic-deficient legislation currently employed. There's no question that those who face serious legal penalties solely on the basis of their consumption/possession of cannabis are dealt a far heavier blow than they deserve. The use of cannabis is a personal choice that, in itself, renders harm upon no one.

livinginlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

by the way, that was "booyalab" I was quoting.

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

sigh It's economics. Less is demanded in a black market. If for no other reason than the fact that it costs more.

And like I've already said, we have a little thing called the welfare system in this country so if more marijuana is demanded then more who are collecting welfare will be spending that money on pot. You can still try to argue with me, but I have the facts on my side.

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

I should clarify my position though, so no one misinterprets me. While I wouldn't vote for marijuana legalization in my state, I don't think it should be legislated at the federal level. That sets a bad precedent.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

Hmm. If marijuana is legalized you can just about bet the price is going to bottom. I'm not sure this is any different than buying alcohol and cigarettes with your welfare money. Either way, I don't see legalization exploding the welfare rolls. One of the actual good things I see about legalization is the possibility that domestic violence may drop a point or two. It's a lot harder to beat the h377 out of your spouse on marijuana than it is on alcohol.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 7 months ago

It's Halloween, I tell ya, Babboy, Halloween.

pizzapete 7 years, 7 months ago

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

Mike Hatch 7 years, 7 months ago

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

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, don't you know how easily the commies and Nazis took over after we were all placated by booze?

oh wai

Shane Powers 7 years, 7 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..."

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

Wow, did no one here take a basic economics class in school? I'm not even making the argument that pot makes you lazier, although you know I could. Demand of pot would increase after legalization, that's the reality, so assuming the rate increases the same across income levels that will include people collecting welfare.

"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." ......speaking of bleeding heart emotion. Don't bother defining "violence" there, or explaining how law enforcers in the US could be directly responsible for killing people in Mexico.

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

"I'm not even making the argument that pot makes you lazier..."

No, you just made the assumption that legalization would create a "massive welfare state". Just like legalizing alcohol made us a bunch of loudmouth, grope-happy drunks and philanderers, right?

Also, I would really LOVE to hear your argument as to how to stop people from using marijuana. If you know something that 70+ years and billions of dollars globally haven't already demonstrated, you have a Nobel Prize coming your way. Has increased funding, ad campaigns, education campaigns, increased police presence, increased stigmatization, international treaty and diplomacy, puritan values, lies about health risks, lies about the gateway effect, mandatory sentences and three strikes laws, threat of revoked student aid, pervasive drug testing in the workplace, negative press, promotion of big pharma, or any other method employed in the world decreased use?

The only enacted political policy that decreases use is... legalization. Check out what happened in Portugal.

Stop babbling about the way it should be, and start thinking about the way we should solve the issue.

LoveThsLife 7 years, 7 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.

livinginlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

It's been awhile since I perused its particulars, but I'm pretty sure the proposition going to ballot in california would restrict use to those 21 and up, and would not grant legality to driving under the influence.

Funny thing is, plenty of folks out there are cited saying the rules proposed are too strict, too restricting, and fail to mesh well with already-present state legislation for medical marijuana. A sort of a step backward in the eyes of many. But this viewpoint (and there are others) seems to reflect more upon how easily abused the medical pot situation was/is by those without serious maladies. Of course, it should just be legal for all adults, so getting Prop 19 to the ballot is for California a step in the right direction. Others shall follow...

booyalab 7 years, 7 months ago

It would probably have more laws limiting it's usage than tobacco or alcohol, which would have little to no impact on the scope of the black market, but medical marijuana proponents don't tend to think about that.

ToddStokes 7 years, 7 months ago

Yes of course the same laws apply, also if you were to provide to a minor. Its all the same laws as alchohol and tobaco, now it is just going to be legal to have in your possesion. The law in CA. doesn't even give you a misdemenor for an ounce, I got busted for two joints in lovely liberal Lawrence Kansas and had to go to a probabtion officer, go to drug classes at Deca, go to NA classes and listen to people talk about shooting heorin in their bathroom while their child is screaming for their parent. what a waste of a year of my life. Republican or Democrat legalization makes sense, and the taxes will make cents.

somedude20 7 years, 7 months ago

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

ToddStokes 7 years, 7 months ago

Eddie sang "My girl likes to party all the time, party all the time".

Moderateguy 7 years, 7 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.

think_about_it 7 years, 7 months ago

Exactly. I wonder why none of the lefties have tried to counter your argument yet.

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

Because society's choice to legalize alcohol hasn't led to the US becoming a welfare state of drunk people, and there's no reason to believe this will be any different.

think_about_it 7 years, 7 months ago

Different effects on the body. Lack of motivation by pot smokers is nearly universal.

deec 7 years, 7 months ago

As opposed to passed out on the couch, maybe lying in a puddle of your puke?

livinginlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

I think you speak reasonably about this. I really do. But the thing is, the image you've just painted of a pot user does no justice to the people it refers to. Sure, there likely exist plenty of "stoners" who fit the description you've used...those are lazy slobs who happen to smoke marijuana. There is nothing about the stuff itself that forces people to fit that description. Harkening back to the same point I brought up in a previous comment, there are just too many people out there who use pot and still lead perfectly successful lives for a construal like that have any value.

Moderateguy 7 years, 7 months ago

I did not intend to portray all pot users in that light. I know several folks that partake of the herb, and they lead normal lives. One or two however have found themselves shall we say "career challenged" due to an apparent lack of dedication to their profession. That is definitely their choice.

Lawrence is filled with people who are addicted to all kinds of substances. I feel it is too easy to let them play the "victim" card and coast along on our collective nickel. People who are down on their luck deserve a hand up, The rest need to be allowed to find the bottom due to their bad choices.

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

I wonder if you give the same speech to people who drink beer, making them culpable for the organized crime wave that hit during prohibition. After all, if those uncontrollable deviants could just go without their nasty liquor, we would be living in a puritan dream of happiness and gumdrops right now.

Alas, this is not the world in which we live. Let me clue you in on the real world.

Supply feeds demand, true. We have spent years and billions trying to curb demand. Guess what - people are still using it, more than ever. We cannot effectively curb demand. It simply does not happen. We cannot curb supply, either, as we have failed to make marijuana any less available in our country. We must admit that we cannot effectively curb supply or demand on marijuana, no matter how much money we throw at it. We have increased penalties, increased funding, made ad campaigns, pushed our kids through DARE, and placed social stigma on pot users as apathetic slackers.

By the way, do you really believe that a truly responsible user would ever divulge your habit? Is this maybe why you don't see any 'responsible pot users', that they are the silent majority here? If this were alcohol, who would be more visible - otherwise law abiding citizens, or fall-down drunks?

After failed prohibition we turn to changing WHO is the supply, as the last effective means of action. By regulating the supply, the government takes this money out of the hands of cartels and places it in the hands of legitimate business owners. Historically, organized crime is directly linked to the intensity and pervasiveness of prohibition. Remove the prohibition and organized crime loses its cash crop. Just like with alcohol, society is not going to hell in a handbasket by virtue of the fact we now allow them to do what they were already doing anyway.

No other drug can be produced in the US or imported into the US in such quantity for such low price. There is not as much market and even less profit to be made by selling cocaine, for instance. Though cocaine is insanely cheap to produce, the facilities and authorities' "blind eye" are not anywhere to be found in the US. By the time it makes it to our borders, the profit margin has all but disappeared.

Additionally, you are assuming that all marijuana comes from these groups who have committed these atrocities. I'm sure there is just as much from the college kid with a green thumb who is making money off his buddies as he goes through school.

Think about it when you're insisting against all evidence that marijuana supply or demand can be decreased, you personally have a culpable role in mass murders. All so you can cop a sense of superiority. You must be so special.

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

After dismantling your entire argument to the point that this is your only retort?

No, actually, that made my day! :)

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 7 months ago

Because it is perfectly legal in Amsterdam. If it's legal, why would anyone need to "smuggle" it in?

livinginlawrence 7 years, 7 months ago

All that you've demonstrated with this post is your own lack of knowledge of the industry. It's easy for folks to imagine that all the pot people here are smoking has come from south of the border, if for no other reason than how it fits with the racist propaganda that helped fuel cannabis' initial prohibition. What people who invoke the bit of misinformation you've referred to in making an argument against legalization must just not be privy to is that the bulk of the quality marijuana (which is what users demand) in the U.S. market is both grown and consumed by Americans. Kind of funny that a Kansan (I presume) wouldn't yet be aware of how much legal marijuana action is already going on in Colorado...which is exported here often and easily. Oops! Cat's out of the bag. And that's just one of a handful of states already endorsing steps toward legality. Heck, pot already is (and has been for awhile) a HUGE part of the economy in parts of California. In case you weren't aware, people in such areas also fear the effects of legalization, except in terms of how it means that others (thedreaded "big business" folks) will be likely to take their business. So the guilt trip you've just aimed at millions of Americans (and many more worldwide) is based on a misunderstanding.

kernal 7 years, 7 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.

phoggyjay 7 years, 7 months ago

Cannabis has never killed anyone in the history of mankind. No matter how much is consumed.

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

I think that he was saying it kills human cancer cells too.

If not, then a bit of trivia: know how much marijuana it takes to kill a lab rat?

Ten pounds, dropped on its head.

phoggyjay 7 years, 7 months ago

Reading beeshlii response again, I believe you are correct. Thanks for the joke, very funny!

mbulicz 7 years, 7 months ago

So once we pushed them from one crime to the other, was the solution to re-illegalize alcohol and criminalize gambling?

No, because making each of these illegal would only up their profits on these ventures.

So if I follow the evidence that you're bringing up to support your argument, you're actually substantiating the notion that we need to fight the criminals, not the industry. We're not trying to make the cartels go legit. We're trying to make them go away, and the most effective way to do that is to place their revenue stream in the hands of the taxpayers. That's what we did with alcohol, that's what we did with gambling, and that's worked pretty well for us so far.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we push the cartels from one stream of revenue to another and there's no decrease in their presence. First of all, we have increased tax revenue from sales and decreased strain on our law system, both of which can let us more effectively deal with criminals. Second, by releasing their stranglehold on one industry and forcing them into another, we are forcing them to re-structure and regroup. This leads to chaos and disorganization, and we now have the time and resources to keep them from achieving a new stranglehold on a new industry. We can now be proactive and not reactive in our crime response. You haven't even argued that this wouldn't be a big blow to cartels - only that they wouldn't open up a string of Cork n Barrels. However, if you force an illegal industry to transform overnight, you weaken it immensely.

You're blasting the same hell-in-a-handbasket tune that we played during Prohibition without saying anything about the other benefits of legalization - personal freedoms, state rights, industrial hemp industry, tax revenue, lessened crowding in prisons, increased control over sales to minors, etc etc.

You're just introducing redressed prohibition era arguments and dressing them up as cannabis arguments, tacking on obtuse insinuations that anyone who disagrees with you must be high.

ToddStokes 7 years, 7 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!!!

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