Friday, September 24, 2010

Mexico Takes the Next Step: Presidential Candidate forces Senate to Demand Official Report on Californian Cannabis Legalization

Remember in early August of this year when Mexican president Felipe Calderon waffled on whether or not he wanted his country to legalize drugs? He said he was open to a debate, but that a debate in Mexico would change nothing if the underground cannabis market in the United States persisted.

In the weeks between August and early September, many official types in Mexico and the United States have inveighed against legalization. Mexico's first lady, Maragarita Zavala, absent and then present at events with the US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowski in Mexico City, and even Barack Obama from the White House, each have rejected legalization in Mexico or elsewhere as a panacea, especially for drug war violence. Notwithstanding an approach of binational official denial, legalization efforts have a history in the United States: going back to 1970 US voters have voted on legalization in several states west of the Rockies. But in terms of international diplomacy or even international relations legalization hasn't entered the lexicon, or politics, of Mexico-US relations. Not even former president Vicente Fox -- a pragmatic legalizer of all drugs, especially cannabis -- could shift the official positions of Mexico City and Washington, DC.

Until now. And not because of the debate called for by Felipe Calderon, and in spite of the official supression of legalization in Washington. How has the legalization debate spread?

What fascinates is to watch how the debate in Mexico has moved from intellectuals in newspapers to bureaucrats who have to instruct official government departments and ministries to study drug legalization in the United States, and especially California. In the past month, former foreign minister to Vicente Fox, Jorge Castaneda, a professor at New York Universisty, and Hector Aguilar Camin, a prominent magazine publisher, writer, broadcaster, and historian, have voiced their support for legalization in the pages of the Washington Post. The pair are constant critics of Calderon's presidency, especially in newspapers. Around the same time as their op-ed, the Mexican Senate voted to produce an official interministerial report on legalization, thereby forcing the Calderon government to enter into a debate it had supported rhetorically.

The report's a somewhat unexpected next step. It's exactly what a resolution drafted by Santiago Creel, a former interior minister in the Fox Government and current Senator, will actually do. According to media outlets, the report will assess how reforming drug laws, but especially cannabis legalization in California, might affect Mexico.

Creel stated his questions: "What's going to happen to conusmption? Is it going to grow? What is going to happen to the price? What will the effects be? This could happen in November," emphasized the senator, who has put himself forward as his party's presidential nomination for elections in 2012. With words leading him to suggest that there is more than one way to examine this issue:

In the analysis and assessment we have centered on the effects organized crime has had on the country; that's where we have centered our attention and our

Another senator from the ruling PAN party, Ramon Galindo, questioned the binational dynamic of the drug war: "One asks why then, why do we have to be shedding blood if they [Californians] are considering such a radical change in direction."

News of the Senate's official request underscored why looking at foreign policy is crucial in regards the debate about legalization:

"In Mexico we have considered the problems of production, traffic, and the consumption of illicit substances as the exclusive domain of our country's internal policy, whereas because the stated phenomenon brings with it international repurcussions, it ought to be addresseed and confronted from a foreign policy perspective."

Meaning that Mexico might be the first country to ever study another country's drug laws and their transnational effects. Which must make Washington rather nervous. Especially with a senator sesemingly so well informed on US drugs policies and the problems of Washington's solely criminological analysis focused on drug trafficking.

No comments: