Pubdate: Fri, 09 Nov 2012
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2012 The Denver Post Corp
Author: William Booth, The Washington Post
Page: 29A


Officials Rethink Their Anti-Drug Strategy After Colorado, Washington
Legalize Marijuana.

Mexico City - The decision by voters in Colorado and Washington state
to legalize the recreational use of marijuana has left President-elect
Enrique Pea Nieto and his team scrambling to reformulate their
antidrug strategies in light of what one senior aide said was a
referendum that "changes the rules of the game."

It is too early to know what Mexico's response to the ballot measures
will be, but Pena Nieto's top aide said the incoming administration
will discuss the issue when he heads toWashington this month for
meetings with President Barack Obama and congressional leaders. The
decision, however, is expected to spark a broad debate in Mexico about
the direction and costs of the U.S.-backed drug war here.

Mexico spends billions of dollars each year confronting violent
trafficking organizations that threaten the security of the country
but whose main market is the U.S., the largest consumer of drugs in
the world.

With Washington's urging and support, Mexican soldiers roam the
mountains burning clandestine plantations filled with marijuana
destined for the United States. Mexico's police and military last year
seized almost as much marijuana as did U.S. agents working the
Southwest border region.

About 60,000Mexicans have been killed in drug violence, and tens of
thousands arrested and incarcerated. The drug violence and the state
response to narcotics trafficking and organized crime has consumed the
administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon.

"The legalization of marijuana forces us to think very hard about our
strategy to combat criminal organizations, mainly because the largest
consumer in the world has liberalized its laws," said Manlio Fabio
Beltrones, leader of Pea Nieto's party in Mexico's Congress.

Pea Nieto's top adviser, Luis Videgaray, said Thursday that his boss
did not think that legalization was the answer. But Videgaray said
Mexico's drug strategies must be reviewed in light of the legalization

"Obviously, we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico,
trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United
States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different
status," Videgaray told a radio station Wednesday.

Videgaray added that legalization "changes the rules of the game in
the relationship with the United States" in regards to anti-drug efforts.

Advocates for marijuana legalization in the United States and Mexico
have often argued that ending the prohibition against pot would deny
Mexican traffickers a key source of revenue.

If Colorado and Washington state manage to legalize the trade - to
produce homegrown products that can compete in price and quality
against illegal Mexican imports-then revenue to Mexican drug cartels
would probably decrease. But not by much.

U.S. experts who produced a landmark Rand Corp. study in 2010 when
California voters were considering the legalization of recreational
marijuana use (the measure did not pass), concluded that Mexican
cartels earn no more than $2 billion moving marijuana across the
Southwest border and that the groups derive 15 percent to 26 percent
of their revenue from marijuana sales.
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