Pubdate: Fri, 22 Oct 2010
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Copyright: 2010 Lexington Herald-Leader
Author: Teo Ballve
Cited: Proposition 19
Bookmark: (Proposition 19)


Passage of California's Proposition 19, which aims to legalize 
recreational marijuana, could help ease the spiraling violence of 
Mexico's drug war.

Approval of the statewide ballot initiative on Nov. 2 would allow 
local governments to tax and regulate the limited possession and 
cultivation of marijuana for adults age 21 and over.

Besides offering the cash-strapped state a new source of revenue and 
jobs, Proposition 19 would also help pave the way for a much-needed 
drug policy shift south of the border.

In Mexico, turf battles between warring cartels and local authorities 
have turned wholesale massacres and brazen daytime shootouts into a 
daily occurrence.

The social and economic costs for California's southern neighbor are 

Violence has claimed more than 28,000 lives since Mexican President 
Felipe Calderon took office in 2006. And his government has spent 
more than $10 billion in fighting the cartels - $1.4 billion of it 
from U.S. taxpayers. But to no avail.

Approval of Proposition 19 in California would help give Mexico the 
breathing room it needs for a fundamental course correction.

Last year, former presidents from Brazil, Colombia and Mexico issued 
a joint report, calling for a "paradigm shift" that includes the 
decriminalization of marijuana. "We need to break the taboo that's 
blocking an honest debate," they said.

Proposition 19 is helping reignite that debate.

The main destination for marijuana - and thus the main problem - 
remains the United States. The White House estimates that the Mexican 
cartels make 60 percent of their profits from marijuana. While some 
analysts say the number is inflated, the dollar value of the 
cross-border marijuana trade is undoubtedly worth billions.

Recently, a single marijuana shipment busted by Mexican authorities 
was alone valued at $340 million. This kind of money buys a lot of 
influence in Mexico.

As in the booze-running days of Al Capone, drug prohibition similarly 
drives the trade further underground, swelling the coffers of the 
violent narco-syndicates. Investigations by Mexican authorities have 
linked this financial clout to increasingly vast corruption networks 
in which police and local politicians are on the cartels' payroll.

Passage of Proposition 19 - and the possibility that other U.S. 
states might follow suit - would sap an important source of revenue 
for the drug traffickers, driving down both violence and corruption.

So, Proposition 19 is not just about allowing the recreational use of 
marijuana in California. It's also about the survival of Mexico.



Teo Ballve is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of 
liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is 
affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the 
author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, 
Wis. 53703; e-mail:  Web site: For information on PMP's funding, please visit

This article was prepared for The Progressive Media Project and is 
available to MCT subscribers. McClatchy-Tribune did not subsidize the 
writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do 
not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy-Tribune or its editors.
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