Saturday, April 29, 2006

That's one way to boost the tourist trade

According to press accounts, Mexico's Congress voted to decriminalize low-level drug possession on Friday. The New York Times' coverage, though, made the policy change sound less sweeping and more complex, creating new police powers to go after drug dealers:

Supporters of the bill said it was meant to fix major flaws in Mexico's current drug laws. First, it will allow local judges and the police to decide on a case-by-case basis whether people should be prosecuted when caught with small amounts of drugs. Previously, every drug suspect had to be prosecuted, a system that put many addicts in jail while dealers went free after bribing officials.

Second, the state and local police will be empowered to arrest and prosecute street dealers who are carrying more than the minor amounts allowed under the law. Under existing laws, drug crimes were handled only by federal officials. ...

"We are not authorizing the consumption of drugs," said Senator Jorge ZermiƱo, the bill's sponsor in the Senate. "We are combating it and recognizing that there are addicts that require special treatment. We cannot close our eyes, nor fill our jails with addicts."

So Mexico's goal is to stop arresting low-level addicts and focus limited law enforcement resources on dealers and the cartels. Sounds like a reasonable plan. Now we get to see if the sky really falls.

Perhaps the biggest benefit will be to remove a big source of drug-related police corruption, which I've argued needs to be confronted on the US side of the Rio Grande, too. AP quoted Drug Policy Alliance Director Ethan Nadelmann declaring that Mexico's legislation will "remove 'a huge opportunity for low-level police corruption.' Mexican police often release people detained for minor drug possession, in exchange for bribes," he told AP.

UPDATE: Talk Left linked to the text of the new law for you Spanish speakers.

NUTHER UPDATE: You had to see this coming: President Fox is scuttling the bill, bowing to US pressure.


Anonymous said...

The tables have turned! Soon the Mexicans might have to build a wall to keep the Americans out!

Anonymous said...

Do you think the whole Bush administration is going bonkers over this by now? Wow!

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail right on the head...start with the top dogs, police chiefs, sheriffs, da's, judges...etc. then maybe it might let up a little. who knows maybe even the rapes by law officials might stop.