Cannabis in Mexico

An Open Debate
Jorge Hernández Tinajero & Leopoldo Rivera Rivera
IDPC Briefing Paper
August 2010

cannabis-mexicoIn August 2010, Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared that he would support a national debate on the issue of legalisation, reversing his previous stance on the subject. However, he underscored that he did not favour legalisation, particularly since the US and the international community maintained their prohibitionist approach. This IDPC Briefing Paper offers background information on the cannabis political debate in Mexico.

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Nevertheless, Calderon’s call for a debate on cannabis legalisation is significant, especially now that the US itself seems to be more open to the idea. Indeed, fourteen US States have legalised medical cannabis so far, and Texas has relaxed incarceration rules of first-time offenders. In November 2010, a referendum will be submitted to Californian citizens to vote on Proposition 19, which aims to legalise cannabis use for adults.

The political debate over cannabis in Mexico itself has also been gaining impetus over the past few years, and several bills aiming to some extent to decriminalise or legalise cannabis were submitted for discussion to the Mexican House of Deputies. There is therefore a clear shift in rhetoric around drug policy in the country, with politicians becoming less reticent to discuss alternative policy options to drug control in the face of overwhelming evidence that the current strategies have failed, are expensive, and have been largely counter-productive.

Whether legalising cannabis will help to curb drug-related violence in Mexico remains to be seen. Cannabis – the drugs most targeted in legalisation and decriminalisation bills in Mexico and the USA – is not a high-profile product for drug trafficking organisations in the region. Therefore, legalising cannabis might not have a direct impact on the high levels of kidnappings, bank robbery, human trafficking and other drug-related crimes. However, this may help change the nature of the debate and provide an alternative approach to the war on drugs, which could later be used for other illicit drugs.