Why Mexicans are watching California’s marijuana vote

BBC News, 10/26/2010

More than 130 tonnes of marijuana were found last week in Tijuana, the Mexican border city where drug cartels have been fighting for years to take control of the lucrative trafficking routes to the US market. It was the biggest marijuana haul ever found in Mexico, hailed by the government as a significant victory in its war on drugs.

But as the thousands of confiscated packages were burned by Mexican security forces, just over the border in California campaigners were continuing their push to have cannabis legalised.

If California voters pass Proposition 19 in a statewide ballot on 2 November, on one side of the border will be a state where the production, sale and consumption of cannabis will be legal, and one the other a country where a turf war fought by the criminal gangs has left more than 28,000 people dead. That is why many in Mexico are paying careful attention to the California vote.

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California’s cannabis vote divides Mexico

The Guardian, 10/24/2010

California‘s referendum on legalising cannabis has divided Mexico into those who consider it a potentially catastrophic betrayal and those who think it could signpost a way out from the horrors of the drug war.

The president, Felipe Calderón, has led criticism of Proposition 19 as a dangerous experiment that would undermine US and Mexican efforts against ruthless and powerful narco-traffickers. The conservative leader and other establishment figures have accused the US of hypocrisy in pressuring Latin America to confront drug traffickers, often at grisly cost, while doing little to rein in the US consumption that drives the trade.

However, a small but growing number of dissenting voices in Mexico, including two former presidents and reportedly four putative presidents, have endorsed legalisation as a way to hit the cartels, reduce corruption and stamp down drug-related violence which has claimed almost 30,000 lives in four years.

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Mexico Watches California Marijuana Vote

The New York Times, 10/17/2010

In two weeks, Californians will decide whether to legalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, in a vote that polls show could be close.

Now, for a change in the drug war, it is Mexico wondering about the possible spillover, this time of an idea. Will such a bold step by its neighbor to the north add momentum to a burgeoning movement here for broad drug legalization?

The backdrop is the drug war, which has left Americans worrying about many of the ills that spill over the border: kidnappings, murders and, of course, drugs themselves. At the same time, Mexicans chafe at the guns flowing in from the States, the nearly 30,000 people killed in drug-related violence here in the past four years and the American demand and consumption that largely sustain the drug trade.

Small steps toward legalization have already been taken on both sides of the border. California, where medical marijuana has been legal under state law since 1996, this month made the punishment for possessing small amounts of the drug the equivalent of a speeding ticket instead of a misdemeanor. Last year Mexicoremoved the penalty for possessing small quantities of a range of drugs, including cocaine, heroin and marijuana, though selling or producing them remain prohibited.

But the similarities pretty much end there. Even those here who are pushing for the legalization of drugs — and in some circles “hard drugs,” like cocaine and heroin — concede that any major change in Mexico would probably be years away, regardless of what happens in California.

For one thing, President Felipe Calderón, who has expressed frustration with the prospect of a “yes” vote in California as another sign of Americans’ failure to bring their drug consumption under control, has not budged from his staunch opposition to legalization.

Because a rising number of intellectuals and some members of the political elite — including his immediate predecessor, Vicente Fox, and ministers who served under him — are advocating legalization, Mr. Calderón has called for a debate on the subject.

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Opinion: California’s vote to legalize marijuana is a step in the right direction

Edward Schumacher-Matos, The Washington Post, 10/15/2010

In the upcoming California referendum on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske have something in common. Both are missing the forest for the weed.

According to recent polls, Californians are on the verge of approving the legalization of marijuana and overthrowing nearly a century of failed American drug prohibition. Hail to the Golden State.

In the four decades since President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” the toll of prohibition includes at least $1 trillion in taxes spent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Worse are the millions of lives damaged by prison time and street violence. In 2007, for example, about 500,000 people were in jail on drug charges.

Yet, while drug preferences go in and out of style, total use by Americans of all stripes remains virtually unchanged.

We parents understandably worry that legalization might encourage drug use by our children, but that’s a management issue, as with alcohol. The drugs are readily available anyway. Instead of hurting children, what legalization really does is undercut the gangs, keep our young people out of jail and reduce the violence.

Edward Schumacher-Matos is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.

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U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside

The New York Times, 10/15/2010

The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug.

The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.

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Mexican waves, Californian cool: Three things to stop the gangs: better police in Mexico, stricter gun laws in America and legal pot in California

The Economist, 10/14/2010

There have been gunfights outside the American school and a big private university. The mayors of two suburbs have been murdered. And a grenade has been thrown at Saturday evening strollers in a square, injuring 12. All this has happened since August not in Kabul or Baghdad but in Monterrey in northern Mexico (see article). The latest battleground in a multilateral war between drug-trafficking gangs and the authorities, Monterrey is not a dusty outpost. It is one of the biggest industrial cities of North America, a couple of hours’ drive from Texas and home to some of Mexico’s leading companies.

The maelstrom of drug-related violence that is engulfing Mexico has produced exaggerated, sometimes xenophobic, alarm in parts of the United States. The response in Mexico City has, until recently, been defensive denial.

Both reactions are wrong. The violence, in which at least 28,000 people have been killed since 2006, reflects a double failure of public policy: decades of neglect of the basic institutions of the rule of law in Mexico, and a failed approach to drug consumption (plus lax gun laws) in the United States. These mistakes have helped to create the world’s most powerful organised-crime syndicates. Reforms in both countries could help tame them.

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Rand: Prop 19 hurts Mexican traffickers only if the state exports pot

Sacramento Bee Blog, 10/12/2010

A new Rand Corporation study disputes claims by proponents of California’s Proposition 19 initiative that widely legalizing marijuana in the state will cripple Mexican drug cartels.

The Rand report, released this morning, said the ballot measure will have little impact on drug trafficking from Mexico – unless Proposition 19 results in California pot growers smuggling huge quantities of home-grown Golden State weed across the United States.

The report said legalizing marijuana beyond currently legal medical use in California would, at best, put a two to four percent dent in the revenues of Mexican drug cartels.

But Rand researchers offered one notable exception: They said if Californians moved heavily into the illegal pot exporting business to other U.S. states, they could slice more than two-thirds out of revenues from Mexican marijuana networks.

“The only way Prop 19 could importantly cut (Mexican) drug export revenues is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that out-compete current Mexican supplies,” read the report from Rand’s International Programs and Drug Policy Research Center.

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Read the Wilson Center report by Rand paper co-author Peter Reuter on U.S. drug policy and its impact on Mexico…