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Mexican President Argues Against Legalizing Marijuana

The U.S. could face a spat with Mexican government officials over a California ballot measure to legalize marijuana, which Mexican President Felipe Calderón said Thursday shows hypocrisy in U.S. drug policy. The U.S. has urged Mexico to crack down on drug cartels, but also accounts for much of the demand for illegal drugs: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has estimated Mexican drug cartels rely on U.S. marijuana sales for about 60 percent of profits. Calderón said California’s Proposition 19 would encourage consumption:

“For me, it reflects a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States,” the Mexican leader said late Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. [...]

Calderon said he was certain that legalizing marijuana will lead to an increase in drug consumption.

“It’s very sad to see how drug consumption is, little by little, tearing apart American society and, if we don’t watch ourselves, it will tear apart ours,” the president said.

Although the U.S. government has attempted to aid the Mexican law enforcement in stopping drug cartels, they continue to be a major problem in the country. More than 28,000 people have been killed in cartel-related violence since Calderón took office in 2006, including 11 Mexican mayors who have been murdered since the beginning of the year. While violence has not spilled over into the U.S., politicians like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have claimed it could, arguing the threat of violence is a reason the United States needs heightened border security.

However, some argue that legalizing marijuana in California could actually lessen drug cartel violence. Historian Héctor Aguilar Camín and former Mexican foreign minister Jorge G. Castañeda wrote an op-ed last month claiming violence would decrease significantly if both California and Mexico legalized marijuana:

Passage of Prop 19 would therefore flip the terms of the debate about drug policy: If California legalizes marijuana, will it be viable for our country to continue hunting down drug lords in Tijuana? Will Wild West-style shootouts to stop Mexican cannabis from crossing the border make any sense when, just over that border, the local 7-Eleven sells pot? [...]

In addition, legalizing marijuana would free up both human and financial resources for Mexico to push back against the scourges that are often, if not always correctly, attributed to drug traffickers and that constitute Mexicans’ real bane: kidnapping, extortion, vehicle theft, home assaults, highway robbery and gunfights between gangs that leave far too many innocent bystanders dead and wounded. Before Mexico’s current war on drugs started, in late 2006, the country’s crime rate was low and dropping. Freed from the demands of the war on drugs, Mexico could return its energies to again reducing violent crime.

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