Weed is not yet legal in Mexico, but it might as well be after the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting people from growing cannabis for consumption was unconstitutional. For many, this is a historic move that bodes well for the future of marijuana in the country.
“Congress in this country can no longer ignore that this is happening and that it doesn’t have to do anything,” said Armando Santacruz, leader of a small club called the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant Personal Use (SMART, in Spanish). “Congress will have to address the problem because you can’t have laws that are unconstitutional and at the same time not do anything about it.”
Santacruz pointed out that about 60 percent of people in federal prisons have been incarcerated for drug crimes. Around 60 percent of them are due to marijuana offenses. If marijuana is legalized, there would be fewer people locked up in prison, and less money and effort will be spent on chasing after small drug users. Mexico will then be able to focus on bigger crimes.
On the other hand, there are fears that liberalizing drug policy can lead to more violence, as an estimated 100,000 people since 2006 have been killed because of drug violence. In fact, a recent poll in Mexico showed that only around 20 percent of people support weed legalization, while an astounding 77 percent oppose it.
“There’s also a more socially conservative outlook for drug use in Mexico and as much as it’s a place for making and moving drugs, it’s not been traditionally a place where drugs are widely consumed,” said Dr. David Shirk, director of the Justice in Mexico project at the University of San Diego.
Marijuana legalization will also have a lasting impact on the international economy, since Mexico supplies a lot of drugs to America.
“Much of the marijuana produced by the Mexican drug trafficking organizations is exported to the US,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center in California. “If Mexico legalized marijuana production for domestic consumption and exports to the US remained illegal, there would still be incentives for organizations to smuggle marijuana to the US.”
As for cartel activity, cannabis legalization will surely reduce their profitability.
“Cartels will stop growing marijuana bit by bit and they’ll concentrate on growing heroin, as is happening in Guerrero,” said Raul Benitez-Manaut of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
Still, Santacruz and other advocates are happy with the Supreme Court’s decision. He said, “The hardest thing was to create that crack and that’s been done.”
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