Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why so little angst over Mexican decriminalization of small drug amounts?

I wonder why Mexico's recent move to decriminalize small amounts of drugs, which passed with little controversy this summer, hasn't received the same howl of protest as when it was suggested a few years ago? Time magazine even suggests their new law "may set an example" for other nations.

Part of the change in American tone must certainly be attributed to a new US President, US Attorney General, drug czar, etc.. Also, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has earned many chits with the US for his aggressive attacks on drug cartels and even (some) corruption in his own administration. Maybe folks are cutting him more slack for that.

Or maybe with the body count piling up in Mexico (and the nation's pathetic prisons witnessing so many escapes they may as well install revolving doors), other priorities seem more important now than whether Mexicans can possess up to 5 grams of pot or a hit of LSD without facing criminal penalty.

Do those factors explain the American reaction or are there other reasons Mexico's decriminalization of low levels of drugs had been greeted in the United States with yawns instead of concerted disapprobation?

UPDATE: Via Drug War Rant, here's an explanation of the new law from the Tonight Show's Conan O'Brien:


Alpo said...

Pot for personal use may soon be decriminalized in Argentina

Rage Judicata said...

I thought you saw more of the same drug shenanigans in the current regime, as you did under Bush?

I'm for decriminalizing small amounts as well (of pot, anyway, not the harder drugs), but unless it's grown by the people who possess it, there will still be the trafficking and violent cartels to contend with. Possession may seem like a small thing but it fuels the violence and corruption that are the real problems.

Anonymous said...

Decriminalizing "small amounts for personal use" actually does nothing toward solving the real social problems created by drug prohibition. In fact, it makes it worse. The real problem with drug prohibition is that it creates unimaginable profits for those willing to risk dealing in large amounts, thus financially empowering organized crime. Decriminalizing "small amounts for personal use" simply increases the markets for dealers, leaving the profits and financial empowerment which grows out of prohibition safely in the coffers of organized crime. If we want to do something about the damage done to society by drug prohibition, we would have to decriminalize all amounts -- not just "small amounts for personal use".

Unfortunately, it appears that the drug law reform movement is about to get "Roved". We are about to embark on a rash of legislative "decriminalization victories" (Denver, CO has just decided to make less than 1 oz of marijuana not worth prosecuting -- essentially legal). These "victories" will lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of an increase in drug-related crime. Welcome home, Tony Montana! The U.S. is about to become your oyster, because we refuse to do it right.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Rage, up until this issue, I'd say Obama's Mexico policy has been identical to Bush. And his domestic drug policy throws more money at the drug task force programs I don't like. But this reaction on their part is a departure from their prior consistency with the Bushies.

Raoul said...

There seems to be changing attitudes in Texas regarding drug busts reported in the media. "Ganja" busts draw numerous yawns and derisive (often funny) comments on

kaptinemo said...

IMHO, It's more because of the economy being so lousy than it is because of anything happening in the social or political spheres. In fact, I believe it's because of the economy that the social and political spheres are warming up to the formerly verboten idea of changing the drug laws.

It's evident to anyone on the US side of the border whose paycheck is not dependent upon maintaining drug prohibition that the money to fuel that drug prohibition is drying up. Choices will have to be made, painful ones, as to what programs have to be funded and which ones don't. Choices...that will have political consequences as things become even tighter. And a pol who thinks it's okay to continue to fund more DrugWar expenditures now out of simple inertia will feel the bite later when unemployed constituents come calling and demand to know why drug police get armored personnel carriers with .50 M2 machine guns while they need the money spent on that for food and shelter.

Sadly, the money is everything. It's dictating just what we can afford as a society...and what we can't. The DrugWar always was a 'rich man's hobby' dependent upon 'expendable income' for its' continuance. That 'expendable income' isn't there anymore. When Joe and Josephine Citizen are down to rice and beans, they won't take too kindly to having what little of their tax revenues that are left spent on fancy toys when they need that money to survive.

Anonymous said...

Grits: The folks that would be raisin' a stink about lax drug laws are otherwise preoccupied trying to save the nation from socialized medicine.

Just wait 'till a story about decriminalization efforts hits the pages of the AARP magazine, then you'll hear the howls.


Anonymous said...

Prohibition makes not sense as a drug control strategy. The actual impacts of prohibition are just the opposite of the policy objectives used to sell it to the public. With prohibition you get: greater access to drugs by people of any age as long as they have money to buy; increased potency which is unknown to the user and accounts for most of the overdoses; drugs cut with adulterants that cause serious health problems; increased disease transmission because users don't have ready access to clean needles; higher use rates (compare the US rates to any other country with less stringent prohibitions); more crime; more violence; increased deaths to police and justice officials who fight an unwinnable war; incredible public costs; huge increases in public prisons; family disruption when an otherwise law abiding family member who uses is caught up in the drug war; environmental contamination from herbicide spraying in Colombia and other countries (spaying also causes illness, destroys legitimate crops, harms livestock, and polutes watersheds), and public corruption on a massive scale.

If that is what Advocates of Prohibition want --- they got it.

But maybe the rest of us want better outcomes. Drugs are too dangerous to remain in the hands of the drug dealers -- they need to be legalized and regulated as we have done with alcohol and nicotine. We still have health problems associated with chronic use of these substances but that is a far more manageable problem than those created by the War on Drugs and continued prohibition of some drugs but not others. All need to be legalized and regulated.

Mexico has taken a wise, but incremental first step, it may well serve as a model for other nations when the sky does not fall.

bob42 said...

A few months ago New Hampshire Free Stater Andrew Carroll notified police of the place and time he intended to possess the prohibited plant. He was arrested and fined exactly $420 (maybe the judge has a sense of humor) which he refused to pay, preferring instead to spend 9 days as a guest of the state, at taxpayer expense.

More recently, it was a different story in Manchester.

"“Big Mike” arrived in New Hampshire this week and made good on his promise to bring Keene’s brand of civil disobedience activism to the Manchester area. My understanding of the story is as follows. After calling the police chief to announce his intentions, he walked around a Manchester park for a couple of hours asking people why marijuana is illegal, while holding a bud of it in his hands. No police showed themselves to enforce their statutes, so he proceeded to the police station and had a chat with the secretary, requesting an officer come talk to him about the issue, making it quite clear he was possessing the illicit plant material. After waiting in the lobby for over 30 minutes, he and the other activists decided to call it a day."

Of course, things are much different here in Texas, where a bill that would "allow" the advice of one's physician to be raised as a defense in a possession charge never made it out of committee.