Monday, September 14, 2009

How are Mexico's drug laws affecting us?

As I mentioned in a recent post, drug violence in Mexico has been escalating to a disturbing degree, from affecting tourism numbers to actually seeing hitmen invade a Mexican treatment center and brutally kill people trying to get well. This does not bode well for the Mexican-American border, nor for the Mexican citizens as well. An article in the New York Times today talked about the new laws decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and harder drugs in Mexico. Good questions brought up here- will US citizens go across the border for easier access to drugs? How will the Obama administration react? And how will this policy affect the Mexican citizens?

A variety of experts chimed in on this. One, Tony Payan (a political science professor at University of Texas-El Paso) mentioned that the new law was designed simply to combat the rampant police corruption- i.e. police demanding bribes to let people off for small possession charges- and NOT to curb violence. However, I really liked his viewpoint on this, quoted here: "it is a solid first step to pave the way for 1) distinguishing between drug use and drug abuse 2) paving the way for fully medicalizing abuse, that is, reinforcing the idea that we should treat drug addicts much as alcoholics and offer them help instead of prison time, and 3) focusing state resources on the production, trafficking and distribution networks." This is what we, vocal opponents of the US drug war, have been saying for years- that we should be going after the big drug kingpins and allow users better, and more comprehensive, access to drug treatment as opposed to putting them in jail.

I was, however, disappointed to see the response from Calvina Fay, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation. She states: "Drug users are not innocent. They support the vicious drug cartels. Without their demand for drugs, the supply side has no purpose." However, this has been the response of government entities for the last 30 years, and we've made almost no progress. This is like comparing abstinence only education vs. comprehensive sex education. There will ALWAYS be demand for drugs- addiction will not go away if we someone slam the channels of drugs shut. People will find something new to be mind-altering- maybe even the internet- to fill the void. So we should be focusing more on the education of "what-happens-if" instead of "just say no."

Here's a breakdown of the new decriminalization laws:

Here's something funny.

Be sure to check out Writers in Treatment, a great new nonprofit organization in Los Angeles looking to help struggling artists get well. They'll be hosting an event here in LA co-sponsored by Hazelden; as more details emerge I'll post them. A great cause, and we're glad to see someone supporting them.

As always, follow me on Twitter and connect with me on LinkedIn. Become a fan of the blog on Facebook. And see you this week.

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