Sunday, October 05, 2008

avoid what is strong; strike at what is weak

Welcome news on the drug front.

President Calderón has decided to ask the Mexican Congress to legalize the possession of small amounts of of drugs. The proposal is very similar to the one that the American government persuaded President Fox to withdraw in 2006.

If passed, possession of up to 2 grams of marijuana or opium, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams of heroin or 40 milligrams of methamphetamine would be legal. And the person possessing would be directed toward drug rehabilitation. The proposal would also allow drug dealers to be tried in state, rather than federal, courts. (That last sentence may not be as good as it first sounds.)

It is not much, but it is a start. Undoubtedly, the grenade attack in Morelia has convinced some Mexican leaders to take a different approach in undercutting the drug lords.

There are actually two prongs to the drug lord issue. The drugs that travel through Mexico, and the drugs that end up in Mexico in the noses, lungs, and arms of Mexican citizens.

It is the latter category that President Calderón is trying to address. Now that Mexican citizens have become wealthier, they no longer need to be envious of American youth. They can have their own indigenous drug problem. The government hopes that by legalizing small amounts, the drug lords may be undercut in their prices.

It probably will not work. But it is worth a try. And President Calderón should be talking to Senator Obama (I am assuming he will win the presidency) about doing the same thing in America -- persuading the states (or some of the states) to try legalization as a method to undercut the drug lord's hold on drug distribution.

Now, I know that last step is not going to happen. In fact, I am willing to bet that a Democrat Congress will put enormous pressure on President Calderón to withdraw his proposal. The Democrats cannot afford to look like anything less than the Daddy party on the drug issue. Not now.

But I wish the brave Mexican president my best in accomplishing at least this first step. He has been reading his Sun Tzu.


Islaholic Trixie said...

Small amounts of pot...OK. Any amount of Heroin or Meth...absolutely not!! Have they seen the problems these two drugs cause? They don't grow in soil like pot. They are manufactured from chemicals that have a skull and cross bone on them.
I think he has been reading your blog Steve!!

Babs said...

Calderon proposed this a year or two ago and the US threatened to not fun the Merida Initiative and he had to withdraw the proposal. The LONG ARM of the US govt again affecting the outcome of other democracies.

Steve Cotton said...

Islaholic Trixie -- If we were to outlaw all substances based on their danger, alcohol would top the list. But we already tried that. Weighing the dangers of substance abuse aganst drug lord social abuse, I am willing to take the risk of legalization. Of course, that is easy for me to say: I am personally opposed to the use of any of these substances.

Babs -- On the last go round, the White House spiked the proposal. However, Congress's posturing over the drug war in Mexico earlier this year was a good preview of how this proposal will be "welcomed."

glorv1 said...

This is heavy duty thinking. As for me, I just think that drugs should NOT be legalized. Our problems are immense without adding more to them. Finis.

Steve Cotton said...

GFloria -- I fully understand the reluctance. I share it. But I have seen no studies that would indicate an increase of usage through legalization. And, if it breaks the back of the drug lords, all the better. That is the true goal.

Anonymous said...


Legalization is a good approach for relatively harmless drugs like marijuana. Cocaine is more contentious, and the remainder on your list are probably better left illegal due to their highly addictive nature. Especially methamphetamine has probably destroyed more lives than the others combined.

But the amounts you mention to legalize are so small as to be trivial. The Mexican government might as well not bother. I realize that larger amounts would more likely raise the ire of the US Puritan Party, but the amounts mentioned are likely what would be technically measurable after whatever user thought he had polished off his stash.

Further, the cartels aren't lopping off heads and delivering them to judges for such trivial amounts of drugs. They are moving thousands of kilos.

An infinitesimal legalization would do nothing to stop the drug cartels and the carnage they bring. Probably only full legalization would do the trick. Otherwise, how do you take the profits away from the big guys?


Kim G
Boston, MA

P.S. The Dutch find themselves now in an amusing situation where it's ok to smoke pot in certain cafes, but smoke tobacco, and you're liable for a fine. Crazy world we live in.

P.P.S. I think the Dutch have very little drug crime due to having legalized pot and providing heroin to addicts.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

Legalize over Certain Age. Tax High. Regulate. Educate. Educate. Educate.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- You are correct. There are no easy solutions to this issue, and we must be ready to accept some carnage in people's lives -- no matter which road we take. Drug usage will continue to ruin some lives, just as alcohol does now. But the violence that comes with an artifically-inflated price must stop. The Netherlands gives me little hope that matters will get much better in the long run.

American Mommy -- I would hope that education would work. I fear that it will not. The alcoholics and drug users of my social class are all well-educated and knew the dangers of taking the drugs (of various sorts) that ruined their lives. That does not mean that some people can learn. I am favor of sending as many messagers as possible to persuade individuals to choose not usiong drugs or alcohol.

And I am not certain that I want to trade the mafia for the government in setting prices. We are about to see how politicians can waste $700 billion on a financial bailout, when I am not convinced that the combined business sense of Congress could keep a brothel afloat for a month. (Oops! I just violated my own political civility lecture.) Governmental drug price-fixing will only import more corruption into the American body politic. I am willing to take the risk of just getting government out of the illegal drug business. But our exchange is a classic example why it will not happen. Even the reformers are philosophically split.

Islagringo said...

I doubt also that the amounts they are talking about will affect the drug cartels. What it will do though is to keep casual users from going to jail for 15 years. How much does a joint weigh anyway?

Steve Cotton said...

Wayne -- I have no idea on any of these weights. According to WikiAnswers, the marijuana in a joint weighs about 1 gram.

Anonymous said...

OK, rereading the comments was definitely worth the chuckle I got out of, "...I am not convinced that the combined business sense of Congress could keep a brothel afloat for a month." LOL...

I would have to agree with you on that one. Sadly.

By the way, I'm pretty convinced that if alcohol (of the beer/wine/spirits variety) had been discovered in the 19th or 20th century it too would probably still be illegal.

Also, if you want further evidence of the anti-pleasure agenda, look into the discovery, usage, and finally banning in the 1980's of Ecstasy, something which has fewer documented harmful episodes than aspirin.


Kim G
Boston, MA

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- I have long believed that some of the best blog material is found in the comments. And I fully agree with your conclusion that alcohol is saved from being a controlled substance solely because of its history -- and it only goes to prove that there is very little principle in the drug laws. Every argument I hear against most drugs would apply equally well when applied against beef. (I had best quiet down at this point. Otherwise, hamburger eaters will soon be required to herd and huddle under awnings -- just like the smokers.)

Anonymous said...

Let me say first that I have no previous knowledge of the proposal to which you are referring. But based on your description it appears the proposal increases demand and does nothing with regard to supply. It would seem, based on the universally accepted Law of Supply and Demand, that this would most likely increase prices (and the corruption that accompanies those profits). Am I missing something?

Steve Cotton said...

Anonymous -- The proposal appears to be directed at neither supply nor demand. The demand for drugs is probably not affected by price (within certain limits) as much as economic models would lead us to believe. Governments end up spending far more in enforcement costs than the small increases in drug prices related to those efforts. The bigger question is why government feels compelled to criminalize one subastance over another. We let people make plenty of unhealthy decisions in a free society. This should simply be one more.