Minister of Mexico Wants to Legalize Marijuana Like the U.S.

Mexico flag in capitol
Diego Grandi/

MEXICO CITY, Mexico: The Minister of Mexico is advocating for legal recreational marijuana in Mexico. Enrique de la Madrid said that the country would benefit greatly by legalizing marijuana, citing the United States as a model for legalization and a way to combat the illegal marijuana market. He added that it "was absurd" not to legalize the drug. De la Madrid made the comments last week while attending a conference in Mexico City, according to Reuters. The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, was a onetime opponent of marijuana legalization, but he now says that Mexico and the United States should share similar policies regarding marijuana legalization. He proposed a bill in 2016 that would permit residents to possess up to one ounce of marijuana that Congress didn't pass, but the legislature did approve the measure for medical marijuana.

Mexico officially legalized medical marijuana in June of last year. President Nieto also advised that tactics used by the international community have been "frankly, insufficient." He added that now is the time to end marijuana prohibition and that addiction should be treated as a health issue. 

Cartels Are Abandoning Marijuana Trafficking

Now that so many states have legalized marijuana in the U.S., drug cartels are seeing a steep decline in demand. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol seized about 4.3 million pounds of marijuana in 2009, but only 861,231 pounds were discovered in 2017. The director of drug policy in Washington, D.C., on Latin America, John M. Walsh, says that the cartels are now trafficking fentanyl due to the decreased demand for marijuana. Fentanyl is also easier to smuggle and less bulky than marijuana.  

Mexican law enforcement recently seized a shipment just south of San Diego in Ensenada. It contained 88 pounds of cocaine, 100 pounds of fentanyl, 914 pounds of crystal meth, and 18 pounds of heroin, but no marijuana, an indication that the cartels are transitioning out of the marijuana trade.   

Authorities believe that legalizing marijuana would end some of the violence created by the cartels over marijuana, saying that illegal trades enable violence because of turf wars. Although the U.S. demand has diminished, Mexico is still the world’s largest supplier of marijuana. De la Madrid wants Baja California and Quintana Roo to be legalized as soon as possible because the towns had the biggest increase in gang violence last year. He hopes that eliminating the illegal marijuana market could also decrease the need for fighting over turf.  

Not all politicians agree with de la Madrid and Nieto. Presidential candidate Margarita Zavala responded to de la Madrid's comments, saying that the Minister's views of decreased violence are naïve. But de la Madrid says a new strategy is in order and that legalization is the solution to the bloody violence. Mexico had 29,000 homicides in 2017, its most violent year in two decades.  

Legalization Faces Obstacles from Catholic Church

The Catholic Church is opposed to legalization and says that even a medicinal balm is still a drug. The Church believes that recreational marijuana is a "placebo to ease the pain of the social destruction in which we wallow." With most of the country being Catholics and an El Universal poll showing that 66 percent of Mexicans are against recreational marijuana, legalization may take some time.  

However, 63 percent of people surveyed by the same El Universal poll said that they would also be open to a debate regarding legalizing marijuana. Other Latin American countries with violent drug trades have decriminalized marijuana as a strategy to combat the violence. Minister de la Madrid and President Nieto think that now is the time to join them. With the violence of drug cartels in Mexico resulting in an average of 69 murders every single day, a change is certainly in order.