Is Legalizing All Drugs the Answer?
If you have been following the news lately it seems as if Cannabis is being legalized in a states, cities or countries every month. However, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is taking it one step further and proposing a plan to decriminalize all drugs. He claims that the current laws that prohibit drugs is a strategy that is not sustainable and that the war on drugs has created a public safety crisis. His administration has created a National Development plan for 2019-2024 to hopefully implement a better solution to the catastrophe that Mexico has been facing for a long time.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has already found cannabis prohibition to be unconstitutional. This has forced the President and Mexico’s legislators to draft laws to regulate and legalize marijuana. Senator Olga Sanchez Cordero introduced a 26-page bill in November 2018 to allow and legalize the commercial sale of marijuana. The proposed bill would allow citizens 18 and over to grow a maximum of 20 plants in their home. It would also allow the possession of marijuana on a recreational level. Public consumption of cannabis would be allowed in public places where smoking tobacco is permitted. Supplying, giving or selling to anyone under 18 would be illegal.
Drug related violence by the cartel has risen significantly, an estimated 235,000 people in Mexico have been murdered since the Mexican government has waged war on the Cartels. It’s not hard to understand why the support for legalization has risen, many believe that placing prohibition on marijuana has made violent crime worse.
Enrique Del La Madrid, Mexico’s Secretary of Tourism even introduced the idea of legalizing marijuana in Mexico’s tourist resorts. He stated that if implemented, drug violence would see a decrease, making Mexico safer for tourists which in turn would increase tourism. He brought up the fact that the state of Baja California Sur, where the twin resorts of Los Cabos is located, has the second highest murder rate in Mexico. He also mentioned the high rate of violence is in Quintana resort, home to Cancun, infamous as a party destination for spring breakers.
Cannabis has been on the frontlines of debate for a while now, almost to the point where people are comfortable with the idea of legalization nationwide. However, when it comes to all other drugs such as heroine, cocaine, crack, LSD, meth and PCP, people are far more skeptical as these drugs can cause serious health problems and violent episodes.
Fortunately, there is more to President Obrador’s plan than simply a free for all access to drugs. Under the National Development Plan, drugs would still be illegal but instead of arrests and imprisonment, offenders would be forced to enroll in detoxification and other medical treatments to recover from their addictions. The goal of the President’s policy is to redirect the resources to get people off drugs in the first place. A better alternative than punishing them for something they will likely do over again, due to the high addictive nature of these substances.
All out war has been the method for dealing with the issue of drug related crimes. This is especially true with Mexico. The country went on the offensive utilizing its military against the violent cartels in 2006. Here are the depressing statistics on how deadly this war has been and continues to be.
- According to Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat, 543 air force and army soldiers were killed.
- El Economista reported that 54 marines lost their life during anti-narcotics operations under the Calderon administration from 2006-2012.
- 152 soldiers were killed under the Nieto administration of 2012-2018 according to Defensa.
- 1,500 soldiers have been permanently maimed or wounded.
- According to the non-profit watchdog organization Semaforo Delictivo, 22,365 civilian killings were reported in 2018.
Soldiers currently in the Mexican Military along with officers and veterans are speaking out along with the help of human rights groups to voice their opposition to the use of Mexico’s military to fight the war on drugs. Opponents state that the military is not trained to deal with these types of crimes and that it should be left to the police.
The Cartels and their gangs have ambushed military patrols, shot down helicopters, beheaded and kidnapped solders. The original goal of using the military was to overcome the hurdle of corruption by the police who are often employed by the gangs and cartels, but the plan has failed miserably.
Under this plan drug users can get their fix with “supply of doses with prescription.” The government announced that in the interest of public safety for the Mexican people, the war on drugs must end and the approach needs to be redirected towards treatment and prevention. The plan also addresses the issue that people who currently make their living on the illegal drug trade must have an alternative that’s economically sustainable.
The cartels have a strong hold on Mexico through the black-market industry. The Cartel will find another criminal enterprise to go into if drugs are decriminalized. It merits serious consideration to hit these violent criminal organizations where it hurts, in their pocketbook, where some of their power can be diminished. Portugal for example has decriminalized drugs since 2001 and they’ve seen some positive outcomes such as a decrease in the numbers of HIV, Hepatitis B and C along with fewer drug related deaths. The iron fisted approach has not been working in Mexico so it’s worth taking a look at the other end of the spectrum with an open mind, to see if the citizens of Mexico can live in a safer stable country.