On Nov. 2, Californians will vote on Proposition 19, deciding whether to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana. If the initiative passes, it won’t just be momentous for California; it may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs.
The costs of that war have long since reached intolerable levels: more than 28,000 of our fellow citizens dead since late 2006; expenditures well above $10 billion; terrible damage to Mexico’s image abroad; human rights violations by government security forces; and ever more crime. In a recent poll by the Mexico City daily Reforma, 67 percent of Mexicans said these costs are unacceptable, while 59 percent said the drug cartels are winning the war.
We have believed for some time that Mexico should legalize marijuana and perhaps other drugs. But until now, most discussion of this possibility has foundered because our country’s drug problem and the U.S. drug problem are so inextricably linked: What our country produces, Americans consume. As a result, the debate over legalization has inevitably gotten hung up over whether Mexico should wait until the United States is willing and able to do the same.