Pubdate: Mon, 23 Nov 2015
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Column: Business across the border
Copyright: 2015 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Jerry Pacheco
Note: Jerry Pacheco is the executive director of the International 
Business Accelerator, a nonprofit trade counseling program of the New 
Mexico Small Business Development Centers Network.


Latest Supreme Court Ruling Could Radically Reshape Nature of Illicit 
Drug Trade With U.S.

The United States has a very sensitive relationship with Mexico 
pertaining to illegal drugs.

It is constantly claiming that Mexico has been lax in assisting in 
the interdiction of illegal drugs that are produced or staged in 
Mexico and shipped to destinations within the U.S. American 
policymakers and would-be presidential candidates point to the 
corruption within the Mexican government that is fueled by the 
billions in revenues of illegal drugs that Mexico's cartels send to the U.S.

Mexico always responds with the obvious: There would be no illegal 
drug problem between the two countries if U.S. drug users were not 
creating this lucrative market.

Years ago, admitting to or being accused of drug use in Mexico was 
shameful. I remember when calling somebody a "marijuano/ marihuano" 
(pot head) in Mexico was an insult. During the past two decades, 
Mexico has seen its internal drug use rise, much as is the case in 
developed countries. As northbound illegal drug shipments have risen 
since the 1960s, powerful officials in the Mexican government allowed 
a tolerance for drug gangs and cartels to conduct their operations, 
as long as they did not disrupt the nation's normal course of business.

On the other hand, if you were a Mexican citizen caught with an 
illegal drug, such as marijuana, you were subject to prosecution, 
heavy fines and possible jail time. In 2009, the Mexican government 
changed the law to decriminalize small amounts of possession 
depending on the particular drug. For personal use, drug users were 
allowed up to 5 grams of marijuana, 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 
milligrams of cocaine, 0.015 milligrams of LSD and 40 milligrams of 
methamphetamine. People caught with amounts below the maximum limit 
were no longer subject to criminal prosecution.

And now, the law could be changing even more drastically in Mexico. A 
group called "la Sociedad Mexicana de Autoconsumo Responsable y 
Tolerante (the Mexican Society for Responsible and Tolerant 
Consumption or "SMART" by its Spanish acronym) filed a lawsuit 
claiming that Mexico's historic approach to drug policy infringed on 
private rights and has been ineffective in a general sense. 
Furthermore, SMART argued that there is no hard evidence that the 
legalization of marijuana could result in increased drug use and the 
underworld that it creates.

In response to the suit, this month, the Supreme Court of Mexico 
ruled in favor of SMART, and declared that the four individuals 
representing this group will now be able to grow and distribute 
marijuana if it is for personal use. The Supreme Court stopped short 
of ruling that Mexico's drug policy, as it affects individual 
citizens, no longer applies. However, this initial ruling has the 
potential of revamping that nation's drug policy by allowing Mexican 
citizens to grow and consume marijuana for personal use.

The ruling creates a series of questions on many levels. First, how 
will this affect the dynamic of Mexico's internal drug structure and 
will this have any effect on the cartels? Because the U.S. is the 
biggest illegal drug consumer in North America, and most likely the 
world, allowing Mexican citizens to grow and consume their own pot is 
probably not going to affect the cartels in a major sense. However, 
if the law is applied in the macro sense, it will probably embolden 
certain people to produce not only for their own consumption, but 
also to overproduce for commercial purposes in order to make a little 
money. This could open up a whole new can of worms and result in a 
contrary effect.

Secondly, the ruling will have a way of normalizing marijuana as a 
subject in Mexico. After the Supreme Court handed down its verdict, 
Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte publicly announced the possibility that 
states such as Chihuahua could examine the possibility of producing 
medical marijuana for export. He stressed that this has to be studied 
carefully and all aspects need to be considered. This is certainly a 
progressive stance that would have been unthinkable for a Mexican 
governor to propose even a couple of years ago.

By easing its nation's marijuana laws, could Mexico inadvertently 
attract foreign tourists who will not be so fearful of traveling to 
that country to partake of this drug? It is unclear if the changes in 
the law will apply only to Mexican citizens (most likely), not 
foreigners. However, could the apparent change in approach that the 
Mexican government is taking embolden foreigners such as Americans to 
visit Mexican cities, particularly in the border region, to get high?

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is expressing concern over the 
Supreme Court's latest ruling and the speculation of what it means 
for the country in the long run. The U.S. government, with its own 
debate over the legalization of marijuana, will also be watching closely.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom