Mexico's Beleaguered President Backs Legalized Pot

By Jed Bickman 09/22/11

Desperate to end his country's bloody drug violence, Mexican President Felipe Calderon urges the US to stem its war on drugs.

Calderone calls for a truce Photo via

Mexican president Felipe Calderon, faced with a scorched-earth war on and among drug cartels, is carefully campaigning for the US to consider legalizing drugs. Doing so might reduce the “astronomical profits” that the cartels rake in. His comments on Tuesday were the second time he's suggested that the US address the problem, citing the failure to reduce demand. However, aware that the language of drug decriminalization or legalization could lose him friends in Washington, and be used to paint him as a radical, he carefully uses the vague wording of “market solutions.” His much-analyzed remark was this: “If [the Americans] are determined and resigned to consume drugs, then they should seek market alternatives in order to cancel the criminals' stratospheric profits, or establish clear points of access [to drugs]. But this situation can't go on.” Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance explained that to speak explicitly about drug legalization would be “essentially like uttering a political heresy.” But it's a heresy that Calderon is willing to utter, subtly—he's an ardent believer in free markets, and sees prohibition as creating a market incentive for cartels that—for them—is worth killing for. His predecessors, Ernesto Zedillo and Vincente Fox, have been vocal proponents of legalization in the years since they left office. But in the past, Calderon has opposed efforts to move toward legalization, such as last year’s ballot measure in California that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Analysts speculate that subsequent violence has caused Calderon to reevaluate his position. In an all-too-familiar scenario, investigators in Veracruz found 35 bodies “with links to organized crimes” in abandoned trucks outside the city yesterday. Many of them showed signs of torture. Over 42,000 people have died in Mexico's drug war since Calderon took office in 2006 and launched an aggressive campaign against the cartels—it's only succeeded in splintering the organizations, precipitating yet more violence.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Jed Bickman.jpeg

Jed Bickman is a journalist and copywriter living in the greater New York City area. He is the associate editor at The New Press. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.