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Former officials call for decriminalization of marijuana

July 29, 2013

In an editorial published in the Washington Post on Saturday, two prominent members of Mexico’s last two administrations advocated decriminalizing marijuana in Mexico City.

Jorge Castañeda, foreign minister under President Vicente Fox, and Fernando Gomez Mont, interior minister under President Felipe Calderon, cited the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington last year as reason for Mexico to abandon its costly and futile war on pot and follow the two states’ lead toward a more relaxed drug policy.

While Mexicans are already legally permitted to possess five grams of marijuana, the capital’s city council, which has the authority to pass health and law enforcement legislation, is contemplating a measure that would allow the regulated possession and use of marijuana in Mexico City. This would be preferable to continuing to follow the well-trodden “path that provokes violence, generates human rights violations, erodes the country’s image abroad and costs a fortune,” argue Castañeda and Gomez, with the support of other former cabinet secretaries – Pedro Aspe, finance minister to Carlos Salinas, and Juan Ramon de la Fuente, health minister to Ernesto Zedillo.

“Mexico is a highly conservative country whose population remains largely opposed to legalizing marijuana. But an increasing number of business, political and academic leaders are shifting their views,” Castañeda and Gomez noted. These figures include former Presidents Fox and Zedillo, both of whom fought vigorously against drug consumption and trafficking in office, but have since reconsidered their positions and concluded that decriminalizing marijuana use and commerce would be a more sensible approach.

Castañeda and Gomez believe that Mexico City would be the best place to begin the push for change, given the capital’s more liberal attitudes to hot-button issues such as gay marriage.

“For practical and political reasons, our effort is limited to decriminalizing the use of marijuana in the federal district, though some believe that the same case can be easily made for other drugs in the whole country,” the pair wrote in the Washington Post.

“Mexicans have paid a high cost in the struggle against drugs,” they concluded. “We know that this war cannot be won. This fight should be waged by physicians rather than armed forces. Decriminalization of marijuana is not a silver bullet, but it would be a major step away from a failed approach.”

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