Legalizing marijuana: more an opportunity than a solution?

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The fact that there is marijuana consumption in Mexico (and which used to be legal) is a fact and the debate regarding the (re)legalization of it along with other substances is not new at all. However, a sort of “neo-activism” has emerged, particularly coming from former public servers (not a novelty either when considering the background of former Latin American Presidents Zedillo, Cardoso and Gaviria). The arguments heard and read in the media and forums – both in favor and against – equally lack any novelty and are debatable.
A few days ago, Uruguay formalized a legalization system enhances with the argument that it will improve security by reducing the violence linked to illegal trafficking. Given the complexity of the drug traffic phenomenon in Mexico, it would be naïve to think that decriminalizing marijuana will alleviate the critical state of security within the country. In fact, it would be desirable if decriminalization and regulation to the marijuana’s consumption chain would impact significantly, not only regarding organized crime violence, but also the many activities that go on under its shadow. Marijuana, cocaine, opium and methamphetamine trade has boosted the creation of powerful and sophisticated networks dedicated to various crimes such as extortion, kidnapping, arms and human trafficking, as well as money laundering. Likewise, the large volume of cash flow coming from the American market should not be forgotten; it is estimated by authorities that it amounted between 19 and 39 billion dollars on 2012 alone.
The limited impact on security should not be a motive to disregard the idea of regulating marijuana consumption. In Mexico, cannabis is the drug with the largest number of users. As remarked by Attorney General Murillo Karam, Mexican legislation allows a specified dose of the drug (not only marijuana), even though trafficking is criminalized. What is worrisome is that its use doubled during the last ten years, according to the National Survey on Addiction. Decriminalizing the chain of consumption might be an opportunity to regulate its production, trade and taxing, just as it is done with legal and socially accepted products that are generators of addictions, such as alcohol and tobacco. Nevertheless, the argument that legalization will be done along with programs of “awareness” regarding consumption weakens whenever it is compared to past experiences with alcoholism and smoking. The same example comes to mind with the prohibition of its advertising in massive media; regardless, consumption of illegal drugs has skyrocketed during the past few years.
Finally, what are the factors that boost the current furor for discussing legalization? Supposing that there was a renewed liberal spirit and a deep certainty that the State should not limit personal freedom as long as third parties are not affected, the answer turns out to be quite obscure. It is likely that a combination of many causes, including the undeniable opportunity of enhancing a very profitable business, that is to say, a clear market economic vision. For instance, the case of California stands out: marijuana crops are the most profitable and state authorities calculate that if a similar tax as the one charged on alcohol were to be applied, over 1.3 billion dollars per years would be collected as a result. In the meantime, the prohibitionist paradigm seems to tumble worldwide. Nevertheless, key questions have to be asked when major decisions are taken. It is not a minor issue.


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