Legalizing Drug Use in Mexico Called 'Reckless'

  Legalizing Drug Use in Mexico Called 'Reckless'

Posted by CN Staff on May 03, 2006 at 12:15:37 PT
By Sam Enriquez & Tony Perry, Times Staff Writers 
Source: Chicago Tribune  

San Diego -- A move in Mexico to legalize narcotics represents a serious danger to the United States, Mayor Jerry Sanders said today.The move by the Mexican Congress to allow possession of drugs that are illegal in the United States is "appalling, reckless and incredibly dangerous," said Sanders, the city's former police chief.
He said he fears that Americans will travel to Mexico to buy drugs and then return to the United States — in many cases through San Diego, which faces Tijuana across the border.The mayor said he has written to President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox to express his opposition. The measure constitutes a "hostile action by a long-time ally of our country," Sanders said.Fox will sign the bill that would legalize the use of nearly every drug and narcotic sold by the same Mexican cartels he's vowed to fight during his five years in office, his spokesman said Tuesday.The list of illegal drugs approved for personal consumption by Mexico's Congress last week is enough to make one dizzy — or worse.Cocaine. Heroin. LSD. Marijuana. PCP. Opium. Synthetic opiates. Mescaline. Peyote. Psilocybin mushrooms. Amphetamines. Methamphetamines.And the per-person amounts approved for possession by anyone 18 or older could easily turn any college party into an all-nighter: half a gram of coke, a couple of Ecstasy pills, several doses of LSD, a few marijuana joints, a spoonful of heroin, 5 grams of opium and more than 2 pounds of peyote, the hallucinogenic cactus.The law would be among the most permissive in the world, putting Mexico in the company of the Netherlands. Critics, including U.S. drug policy officials, already are worrying that it will spur a domestic addiction problem and make Mexico a narco-tourism destination.Even the Netherlands, famous for coffeehouses that sell small quantities of potent marijuana and hashish, forbids the possession and sale of narcotics. Colombia allows personal use of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, but not LSD or PCP.Selling drugs or using them in public still would be a crime in Mexico. Anyone possessing drugs still could be held for questioning by police, and each state could impose fines even on the permitted quantities, the bill stipulates. But it includes no imprisonment penalties.Lawmakers who voted for decriminalization, some of whom have expressed surprise over the details of the bill, said it would for the first time empower local police to make drug arrests and allow law enforcement in general to focus on intercepting large drug shipments and major traffickers. The bill also would stiffen penalties for selling drugs near schools and authorize state and local police to detain users to check whether amounts were over the legal limit."The law constitutes an important step forward by the Mexican state in its battle against drug dealing," said Eduardo Medina Mora, secretary of public security and Mexico's top law enforcement officer.Presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar said Tuesday that Fox would sign the measure, calling it an important tool in the fight against drug trafficking. Fox has avoided public comments on the bill and did not attend a news conference about it Tuesday.Since the vote by Congress last week, lawmakers have said they are unsure who amended the bill, originally aimed at legalizing possession of small quantities of drugs among addicts, to make it apply to all "consumers."The Bush administration is refraining from public criticism of Mexico. But in private meetings Monday with Mexican officials in Washington, U.S. officials tried to discourage passage of the law, U.S. Embassy officials here said."Any country that embarks on policies that encourage drug use will get more drug use and more drug addiction," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy."Many countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, see the drug problem as a trafficking problem," he said. "But the real problem isn't trafficking, it's drug use. The costs of drug addiction are staggering."Mexico has for years blamed Americans for fueling the multibillion-dollar illegal drug trade with their $10, $50 and $100 drug purchases. One cartoon here showed Uncle Sam kneeling over a map of the United States and Mexico, snorting a giant line of cocaine piled along the border.News of the pending Mexican law spread quickly over the Internet, reaching the website of High Times, a glossy monthly magazine that features photo spreads of marijuana from around the world."I know I'll be booking my trip as soon as I hear the OK!" wrote "Beefy" to general agreement among his cyber peers.Drug use by Mexicans grew as smugglers began receiving payments in drugs rather than cash from Colombian suppliers, experts say. The drug surplus triggered more local sales and use."There's been a big increase in addiction in recent years," said Mago Marchina of Clinica Nuevo Ser, a Tijuana drug treatment center.Reliable figures on how many Mexicans are addicted to drugs are hard to come by, but Mexico's National Council Against Addictions has said that more than half of addicts use cocaine, and a third report hard-core marijuana use.A growing war among rival drug gangs in Mexico — primarily the so-called Gulf and Sinaloa cartels — has ushered in a new era of brutality, with torture routine and bodies burned and dismembered.More than 1,000 people have been killed in the last 18 months in fighting over smuggling routes to the United States, mostly in border cities, Acapulco and the capital. Automatic weapons and explosives are common tools; police and journalists are increasingly frequent targets.Fox, whose term ends in December and who is barred by law from seeking reelection, has been considered a strong ally of the U.S. anti-drug effort. He has said the current drug war was triggered when he began arresting top leaders, including Osiel Cardenas, who allegedly runs the Gulf cartel from prison.In the last year, Fox has called in the army to patrol the border city of Nuevo Laredo when it became clear that local police were in league with traffickers. And he has promised to extradite drug smugglers facing trial in the U.S.Consequently, many U.S. officials, and Mexicans, are scratching their heads over the new law.Mexican Sen. Jorge Zermeno, a member of Fox's National Action Party, spoke twice in support of decriminalization before the Senate's 53-26 vote Friday shortly after midnight.He said the legislation, which Fox first proposed in 2004, was intended to allow drug possession for bona fide addicts, who would be sent to drug treatment instead of jail. But the word "consumer" was attached to the bill and won approval, broadening it to include all adults, he said.Enriquez reported from Mexico City and Perry from San Diego. Cecilia Sanchez and Carlos Martinez in The Times' Mexico City bureau contributed to this report. Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)Author: Sam Enriquez and Tony Perry, Times Staff WritersPublished: May 3, 2006Copyright: 2006 Chicago Tribune CompanyContact: ctc-TribLetter Tribune.comWebsite: Articles:Mexico's Fox To OK Drug Decriminalization Law Drug Bill Worries Police Proposes Decriminalizing Pot and Cocaine 

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Comment #23 posted by afterburner on May 04, 2006 at 09:01:19 PT
Bah, Humbug
No sugar tonight in my coffee
No sugar tonight in my teacoffee good. alcohol good. tobacco good. tea good. chocolate good. all legal, all 'consumed.' of limited medical value.cannabis bad. illegal, 'used,' not 'consumed.' of extensive medical value.prosecution or "mandatory drug treatment programs." --U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said.Can we impeach her too while we're at it?
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Comment #22 posted by kaptinemo on May 04, 2006 at 04:10:06 PT:
It's the same problem, all over
I wasn't too hopeful that Sr. Fox would go through with it. If only because he faces the same problem we do here: The USG.It's really weird, when you think about it: the vast majority of the citizens in both countries don't believe the present system of drug (ha-ha) 'control' as espoused by the US Gub'mint has any effect save that of making narcos richer and cops more corruptable. But it's the US Gub'mint that works to maintain the prohibition, when most people have already recognized the basic flaw - that it IS a prohibition, and therefore doomed to fail - and want no further part of it. The US government in effect works against the 'will of the people'. This is that 'democracy deficit' that Noam Chomsky spoke of years ago in operation. It's going to get very interesting in Mexico, when Fox has to explain his volteface to his people on his refusal to sign this legislation without sounding like another of Bush's 'poodles'. 
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Comment #21 posted by CorvallisEric on May 03, 2006 at 22:12:05 PT
Why Fox's rejection?
I think it's mostly connected with our current immigration and guest-worker debate.
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Comment #20 posted by runderwo on May 03, 2006 at 21:49:03 PT
great move for them
This is actually a brilliant move for the prohibitionists. It will forever intertwine the definition of "drug consumer" and "drug addict", furthering their propaganda campaign to redefine all use as abuse.
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Comment #19 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 20:34:36 PT

Dr Ganj 
I don't think Mexico was really serious to do this but they wanted to make Bush look bad. Kick em when they're down type way of thinking. I am beginning to believe that Mexico wants some parts of the USA back. Some of the areas in the south were theirs and maybe they want to reclaim what was taken from them. 
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Comment #18 posted by Dr Ganj on May 03, 2006 at 20:23:35 PT

What's The Real Truth?
Who really knows? Maybe Mexico never intended to follow through with this, and they knew they'd get something big from the US for acquiescing?
Or, maybe our president called Vicente Fox, and said if Mexico goes through with this, the US would build a wall from Tijuana to the Gulf of Mexico sealing off all of Mexico's people, and doom them to a life of pure misery. Well, it's like that right now, so I wonder what the real deal is?
So much for a fun Cinco de Mayo in Cabo. It would have been awesome for Mexico's tourism, but now Mexico is just another broken, nasty, toilet in which to leave a big #2. 
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Comment #17 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 03, 2006 at 19:09:44 PT

Follow the $$$$$$
Fox is a good name for him. He and other company knew this law would be unpopular with the empire to the north? We may or never know the deal.
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Comment #16 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 19:01:01 PT

I wonder what we had to give Mexico to side with our government.
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Comment #15 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 18:59:21 PT

Dr Ganj 
I really didn't expect this to happen. Drugs are not accepted by most people but if marijuana had been the only substance it might have worked out ok. We tell all countries what to do anymore. The last 6 years have really done a lot of damage to our liberties. 
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Comment #14 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 03, 2006 at 18:58:00 PT

The empire strikes back
I bet some kind of deal was made.
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Comment #13 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 18:53:04 PT

Expanded Associated Press Article
Mexico President Refuses To Sign Drug Bill***Mark Stevenson, Associated PressMay 3, 2006MEXICO CITY - Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to sign a drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, hours after U.S. officials warned the plan could encourage "drug tourism."Fox sent the measure back to Congress for changes, but his office did not mention the U.S. criticism."Without underestimating the progress made on the issue, and with sensitivity toward the opinions expressed by various sectors of society, the administration has decided to suggest changes," according to a statement from his office.Fox said he will ask "Congress to make the needed corrections to make it absolutely clear in our country, the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, a criminal offense."On Tuesday, Fox's spokesman had called the bill "an advance" and pledged the president would sign it. But the measure, passed Friday by Congress, drew a storm of criticism because it eliminates criminal penalties possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamines and PCP, as well as marijuana and cocaine.Weighing in, the U.S. government Wednesday expressed a rare public objection to an internal Mexican political development, saying anyone caught with illegal drugs in Mexico should be prosecuted or given mandatory drug treatment."U.S. officials ... urged Mexican representatives to review the legislation urgently, to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico, and to prevent drug tourism," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said.There are concerns the measure could increase drug use by border visitors and U.S. students who flock to Mexico on vacation.Bryan said the U.S. government wants Mexico "to ensure that all persons found in possession of any quantity of illegal drugs be prosecuted or be sent into mandatory drug treatment programs."The legislature has adjourned for the summer, and when it comes back, it will have an entirely new lower house and one-third new Senate members following the July 2 elections, which will also make the outgoing Fox a lame duck.However, Sen. Jorge Zermeno, of Fox's conservative National Action Party - a supporter of the bill - said he thought Congress would be open to changing the legislation to delete a clause that extends to all "consumers" the exemption from prosecution that was originally meant to cover only recognized drug addicts."The word 'consumer' can be eliminated so that the only exemption clause would be for drug addicts," Zermeno told The Associated Press. "There's still time to get this through."The bill contained many points that experts said were positive: it empowered state and local police - not just federal officers - to go after drug dealers, stiffened some penalties and closed loopholes that dealers had long used to escape prosecution.But the broad decriminalization clause was what soured many - both in Mexico and abroad - to the proposal.Copyright: 2006 Associated Press

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Comment #12 posted by Dr Ganj on May 03, 2006 at 18:49:53 PT

Another Country Bullied By The US!
How is it possible the US can force policy in so many different countries?
Mexico was so close to making the right decision, and once again, the US demands Mexico's soon-to-be law be changed.
Wow, I don't think I'll ever see the day when reason will prevail. It's just disgusting. 
Well, Mexico is a dirty, corrupt, impoverished country, and I guess I'll vacation in Hawaii instead. Far better food, too.
Hasta la vista,
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Comment #11 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 18:26:18 PT

Related Article from The Associated Press
Fox Sends Drug Decriminalization Bill Back To Lawmakers 
 May 3, 2006MEXICO CITY -- Under pressure from the U-S, Mexican President Vicente Fox has backed off a drug decriminalization bill.Fox has sent it back to Congress for changes rather than signing it into law as his office had said he would just a day ago. The measure would have lifted penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use, including marijuana and cocaine.His office now says the proposed law will be tightened "to prevent drug tourism."Copyright 2006 Associated Press
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Comment #10 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 18:22:37 PT

Reuters: Mexico's Fox Won't Sign Drug Law
May 3, 2006 — MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Vicente Fox will not sign widely criticized narcotics legislation until Congress removes parts of the law that decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, his office said on Wednesday.The president's office said the law would be sent back to Congress for revision. "In our country the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, crimes," the office said in a statement. The approval of the legislation, passed by Congress last week, surprised Washington, which counts on Mexico's support in its war against gangs that move massive quantities of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines through Mexico to U.S. consumers. It was also criticized by authorities in tourist towns who worried about a flood of thrill-seeking visitors.Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service

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Comment #9 posted by Max Flowers on May 03, 2006 at 17:59:45 PT

Oh well
He can now kiss goodbye the hundreds of millions they would have made off new tourism. Their loss.I'll just go to Costa Rica now (cannabis was all I was interested in anyway).
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Comment #8 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 17:36:59 PT

Fox Will Not Sign To Decriminalize Now
It was just reported on MSNBC. It really doesn't surprise me at all. I expected it with this current administration.
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Comment #7 posted by mayan on May 03, 2006 at 17:29:19 PT

If those in our government cared about the health of people they wouldn't be working for a government that did 9/11 and is waging wars in which over a hundred thousand innocents have died! This hysteria is all about keeping U.S. dollars in the U.S. as Mexico will make a killing off of American tourists!
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Comment #6 posted by FoM on May 03, 2006 at 16:19:34 PT

I looked at the article. I never believed that the Republican administration would just allow Mexico do what it wants. That's not like them.
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Comment #5 posted by Taylor121 on May 03, 2006 at 16:11:04 PT

Mexico backing off of decrim?
Interesting article:
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Comment #4 posted by Max Flowers on May 03, 2006 at 16:00:35 PT

Check this out (OT- impeaching Bush)
This story , about Tim Robbins blasting the mainstream media for ignoring the crimes of the president and calling for him to be impeached, is being run on Yahoo India but is nowhere to be seen on domestic (US) Yahoo's news...! Ironic, no? They are the same orgainization and should have the same people deciding what news to run, I would think.
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Comment #3 posted by Max Flowers on May 03, 2006 at 14:45:25 PT

Riley puckers up
"Any country that embarks on policies that encourage drug use will get more drug use and more drug addiction," said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy."Many countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, see the drug problem as a trafficking problem," he said. "But the real problem isn't trafficking, it's drug use. The costs of drug addiction are staggering."No Tom, the real problem is not use, but PROHIBITION. That's where the money is hemorrhaging. The use itself is a fact, a natural law, that you will never change. People eat. People sleep. People breathe. People do drugs. It's that simple.The real question is, how do you deal with that fact which never changes---do you go into denial over it and pretend that with just a few billion more dollars, a few more arrests, you can make it go away? Or do you accept that this is an inherent part of human nature and try to work with it as best you can and discourage people from doing it (with compassionate words, not jail)?Well I know what you would say. But now we will get a chance to see a more enlightened approach (to some degree, anyway) tried right next door. I hope it blows all your lame theories up right in your face, Tom.
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Comment #2 posted by MikeEEEEE on May 03, 2006 at 13:54:28 PT

Learning from history
When alcohol prohibition ended there was a lot of shouting about it from the prohibitionists. The louder you hear these noises, the bigger the cracks in the wall.

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Comment #1 posted by OverwhelmSam on May 03, 2006 at 12:49:24 PT

Oh Me, Oh My, Oh No!
I see the Alarmists are up in arms about Mexico's decriminalization. I have a problem with this anit-marijuana Activist Mayor, using his official position to promote prohibition. He's really going to freak out when the US decriminalizes marijuana.
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