Sunday, April 30, 2006

Mexico and the Drug War

Mexico has decided to take a step toward decriminalizing the use of drugs, as reported by the Washington Post:

Under the law, penalties would be erased for possessing 500 milligrams of cocaine, 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of raw opium and 25 milligrams of heroin, among other drugs. The measure, which has surprised and angered anti-drug groups in the United States, is intended to further shift the focus of Mexico's sputtering drug battle from users to traffickers.

We'll have to wait and see whether this really is a step toward ending the futile war on drugs in Mexico, as so many (especially conservatives) fear it to be. If the police end up using all of the resources that had previously been used to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate end-users in their "shifted focus" on traffickers, then things won't necessarily get better. If it becomes more dangerous to be a drug trafficker, the traffickers will demand more profit. They will become more dangerous people do deal with, or they will hire more dangerous people to protect them.

An anti-drug warrior is quoted in the article:

"Mexico is trying to make the right choices. . . . The Mexican legislation will go a long way toward reducing opportunities for police corruption and harassment in their interactions with ordinary citizens," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. The group advocates ending the war on drugs.

I hope that's true, and I'm sure that it is to the extent that "with ordinary citizens" applies. If Mexico goes more heavy-handed against the traffickers, however, the opportunities for corruption and corroboration between the traffickers and the police will expand. And the rewards for participating in those now-riskier opportunities will be greater.

Over at, Ryan W. McMaken finds another black cloud in the center of the silver lining of Mexico's move:

The legalization of drugs in Mexico will provide an excellent opportunity for a great many Americans to show their undying love for the police state as they call for greater crack downs against drugs on this side of the border to combat the menace of people carrying 5 grams of pot.

I guess things will get worse before they get better.