After years of trying to wage against illegal drugs in the country, Mexico is finally taking a different approach by decriminalising small amounts of certain drugs. The passing of the law was done without any fanfare but this law could have a staggering impact in a country where drug cartels rule with impunity. Across the border, there wasn’t much said about the passing of the law despite the United States strong stance against drugs. Any measure that has been seen as going soft against such crimes have been greatly resisted by the U.S. government.
The Attorney General of Mexico attempted to downplay the significance of the statute by stating that it did not amount to a legalisation of the drugs. This, he said, was merely an attempt to regulate the issue. Mexico has been in the grips of a long war against drugs and violence involving traffickers and cartels has resulted in the deaths of in excess of 11,000 people in a span of just two and a half years. The country is now struggling to come up with new solutions to solve the problem. Mexican officials are hoping that with this new law in place, there will be less pressure on the country’s prison system which is already dealing with a higher prisoner population than it was designed for. With this new law in place, the authorities will now be able to limit their focus on those higher up the food chain; the smugglers and the dealers.
Another major problem the authorities are hoping will be solved by this law is corruption in the police force. Before the law was passed, ordinary officers had the discretion of arresting and even prosecuting drug users. This resulted in ordinary citizens being shaken down by ordinary police officers.
The law has also been passed in consideration with what’s going on across the border. Many people in Mexico and beyond believe that the U.S. should reassess its own approach to fighting drugs especially when it comes to marijuana. Marijuana is the main source of income for the cartels in Mexico. Several states have, in fact, already taken measures to legalise small amounts of marijuana. Despite such measures, the number of arrests in relation to marijuana possession reached 800,000; a new record high.
Things have changed since Barack Obama took office and the US even went as far as to acknowledge partial responsibility for the drug problems in Mexico since the U.S. is the cartels’ main market. The U.S. government is also eager to see their southern neighbours make progress in the ongoing drug war.
This isn’t the first time Mexico has attempted to pass such a law. A few years back, the countries legislative body passed a similar law but the president at the time refused to sign it into law. This was due to the influence of the Bush administration. This time, the U.S. hasn’t intervened in any official capacity and people in Mexico can now have half a gram of cocaine, 50mg of heroin or 40 grams of marijuana without fear of getting arrested.