Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mexico's Congress decides fate of legalizing marijuana

> merits of legalizing marijuana for personal use, a policy backed by three
> former Latin American presidents who warned that a crackdown on drug cartels
> is not working.
> Although President Felipe Calderon has opposed the idea, the unprecedented
> forum shows legalizing marijuana is gaining support in Mexico amid brutal
> drug violence.
> Such a measure would be sure to strain relations with the United States at a
> time when the two countries are stepping up cooperation in the fight against
> drug trafficking. The congressional debate ‹ open to academics, experts and
> government officials ‹ ends a day before President Barack Obama arrives in
> Mexico for talks on the drug war.
> Proponents had a boost in February when three former presidents ‹ Cesar
> Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of
> Brazil ‹ urged Latin American countries to consider legalizing the drug to
> undermine a major source of income for cartels.
> The congressional discussion takes on a subject "that had been taboo" in our
> country, said opposition lawmaker Javier Gonzalez, adding that his
> Democratic Revolution Party supports legalizing personal marijuana
> consumption.
> "What we don't want is to criminalize youths for consuming or possessing
> marijuana," he said.
> Calderon, whose six-year terms ends in 2012, has proposed legislation that
> would offer users treatment instead of jail time but stop short of
> legalizing or decriminalizing possession.
> In 2006, Mexico backed off a law that would have abolished prison sentences
> for drug possession in small amounts after the U.S. protested.
> "It's clear that a totally prohibitive policy has not been a solution for
> all ills," said Interior Department official Blanca Heredia. "At the same
> time, it's illusory to imagine that complete legalization of marijuana would
> be a panacea."
> Heredia urged lawmakers to keep in mind that drug use is rising in Mexico.
> She said the number of people who have tried drugs rose from 3.5 million in
> 2002 to 4.5 million in 2008, while the number of addicts rose from 307,000
> to an estimated 465,000.
> Mexico's drug violence has surged to unprecedented levels since Calderon
> launched a military-led offensive against powerful trafficking cartels in
> 2006. Since then, more than 10,560 people have been killed, mostly in
> violence between rival gangs.
> Lawmakers are not discussing a specific proposal, and the debate is not
> expected to result in concrete action. Lawmakers have said they want to hear
> various viewpoints before they begin considering proposed bills for
> legalizing marijuana.

No comments: