Tag Archives: marijuana

Ignatieff/Liberals receive some courage from the Wizard.

Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party have apparently grown a pair and they are valiantly/finally/thankfully standing up to the Conservatives on their regressive dumb-on-crime bill that would fill Canada’s prisons and costs us all $10 Billion. Canadians appreciate courage and abhor posturing. My message to Michael Ignatieff: Hold your ground. Debate the bill publicly. Courage > bravado.

Some thoughts:

  • 13 of the 16 witnesses who spoke before the justice committee during public hearings in the spring, denounced the bill.
  • Prime Minister Harper killed the bill by proroguing parliament. Keep that fact in mind any time Justice Minister Rob Nicholson says it is urgent that the bill be passed without any scrutiny or dissent.
  • The bill will cost an estimated $10 Billion. The Conservatives estimated the cost originally in the millions. It seems like the CPC is working on a bringing an American-style Prison Industrial Complex to Canada.
  • Mark Holland: “What is the impact going to be on other services at a time when the Conservatives are running a more than $40-billion deficit? These prisons become a giant vacuum that sucks up everything else.”
  • The bill would set a mandatory minimum jail sentence for anyone arrested with a certain number of marijuana plants (originally 5 then changed by the senate to 200 then reduced again) which would tie judge’s hands. Studies have shown that arresting non-violent offenders drastically increases the chance that when released they will commit another crime. Crime rates have been declining in Canada so it’s not as if this bill is desperately needed (Harper’s prorogation confirms that analysis.) The Conservatives know that their policy is merely posturing so they throw people who are in possession of a drug (cannabis) that is no more harmful than alcohol, forging them (in prison) into real hardened criminals, then releasing them into the general population. This costs taxpayers money but the cost to society in much higher than that.
  • The Liberals have switched on this bill and many Liberals are coming around on the A.G. audit. In the United States, President Obama and the Democrats have finally realized that the Republicans are going to oppose everything they do, no matter what. Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals need to learn that the Conservatives will scream, stomp, distort and deceive no matter what the Liberals do. If you are going to be attacked no matter what, do the right thing.

Some graphs on crime statistics in Canada:

Michael Ignatieff: For Decriminalization. Against Legalization. It’s a start.

Two Great Posts by bloggers who were at Michael Ignatieff’s event at the University of Victoria can be found at: Too Much Geography and Unambiguously Ambidextrous.

At the event Michael Ignatieff was asked about Marijuana usage and Ross Rebagliati to which the Liberal Leader responded:

I never make comments on the personal lifestyle choices of my colleagues and friends, and I’ve never felt that marijuana use or, for example, possession of small amounts of marijuana are to be criminalized or that anybody should suffer consequences for personal recreational uses of marijuana. But then I have to say to people who then ask me if I want to legalize marijuana, and I know you don’t want to hear me say this, but I’d say no.


This has been a solid week for Canadians who support progressive drug policy. On Thursday a Toronto Judge Howard Borenstein announced he was preparing to declare marijuana laws unconstitutional (he is going to make his ruling official in two weeks) and on Friday Stephen Harper got pwned by the B.C. Court of Appeal who dismissed the federal government’s case against Insite which confirmed the injection site’s constitutional right to exist.

The fact that Michael Ignatieff has now publicly spoken in favour of decriminalizing cannabis is huge. When compared to Stephen Harper’s regressive crime policies this is a gutsy proclamation by the opposition leader.

I am disappointed that Michael Ignatieff is against legalization of cannabis. This was a brief answer so I will hold out for more nuance from Mr. Ignatieff before denouncing his support of prohibition.

The arguments in favour of legalization (cannabis is less harmful than alcohol, it has numerous medical benefits, casual use can actually be beneficial, prohibition funds gang while wasting taxpayer money on enforcement, legalization/effective legalization in Portugal/the Netherlands didn’t lead to increased usage,  the war on drugs has failed so badly, Stephen Harper is against legalization) are stronger than those in favour of prohibition. Hopefully Michael Ignatieff, a former professor, will be convinced by the logic/sensibility of legalization and change his mind.


Post Script:

“The Equivocator” is looking expand “Liberals for Legalization.” I have a button on the side of my blog. Feel free to contact me if you are a member of the LPC and you believe in lobbying for progressive drug policy. If you want to add the button to your blog please feel free.

Drug Charges in Canada

Graphs created by Greg D’Cunha using statistics from StatCan.

The War on Drugs: Like Squeezing A Balloon

Article references: Dealing a Major Blow to Mexico’s Masters of Meth

Meth is one of only a syringeful of drugs I don’t think should be legalized. The United States has been moderately successful at combating Meth at home. This week the DEA led a campaign that saw the arrests of more than 300 alleged meth traffickers in the U.S., all allegedly tied to La Familia. Since the war on drugs is based on flawed premises and uses techniques that are counter-factual this progress is superficial. When the USA squeezed the meth producers within its borders Mexico picked up the slack. ‘When the U.S. Congress enacted the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act four years ago, it created a lucrative trafficking niche for La Familia.’ While some La Familia bosses were arrested in Mexico this week, most if not all those captured in the 15-state roundup in the U.S. were lower-level traffickers and enforcers (just like in Batman when Harvey Dent arrests all of the low-level criminals in Gotham City.)

The illegal drug problem is a transnational issue. The United States’ solution has been the same since the Nixon administration and since President Nixon production and consumption of all most every variety of drugs has gone up year after year.

One solution to this problem is legalization of marijuana. You can roll your eyes but the Narcos in Mexico get a lot of their money from marijuana sales. If the United States, Canada and Mexico legalized cannabis all three of our governments would make billions off of sales taxes, the gangs wouldn’t lose a majority of their funding, crime in Canada/the US would go down, the police would have extra resources to pursue real criminals and everyone would benefit.

A few weeks ago Mexico decriminalized many different drugs. This is a good first step but international problems need international solutions. Canada/Mexico/the US have been fighting the failed War on Drugs together for years. The problems of coordination and efficiency should be solved by the harmonization of policy between the countries. Unfortunately the very premise that drugs can be “fought” (one built upon the fallacious lies that cannabis is bad and imprisonment deters crime) has been proven false.

This small victory against those who make Meth will squeeze the balloon once again causing a bulge in another part of the world.

Marc Emery: Canada’s Marijuana Martyr (My article From The October 14th Edition of ‘The Mike.’)

Marc Emery: Canada’s Marijuana Martyr

Marc Emery is the model Canadian citizen. He is a small business owner who has openly and transparently paid $580 000 in taxes to the Canada Revenue Agency from 1995-2005. Mr. Emery has contributed to numerous charities over the years and has even started a political party in British Columbia. The Canadian Medical Association has recommended Mr. Emery’s business to people all over Canada and he has sent his publications to every member of Canada’s Parliament. Marc Emery loves his job but it is his job that has got him into trouble. Marc Emery sells marijuana seeds over the internet. Or he did, until he was arrested on July 29, 2005 in Nova Scotia by the USA’s Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

The facts:

In 1985 Canada and the United States signed a treaty with the goal of coordinating American/Canadian crime fighting efforts. Canada also has “The Extradition Act” to governor if/how/why Canadians can be sent to the United States to stand trial. In Canada selling marijuana seeds is technically illegal. However the law hasn’t really been enforced since 1998 when Marc Emery was arrested for this “crime” and punished with a $2000 fine. When a law isn’t enforced for more than 10 years it stops being a law (the legal term is “Dead Letter”) for example Springfield had an old, never-enforced law requiring ducks to wear long pants on The Simpsons. This means that though selling marijuana seeds violates sections 841 and 846 of the United States Criminal code and American’s are regularly arrested under this law, what Marc Emery has been doing for years is no longer a crime in Canada. Emery who was arrested in Nova Scotia shipped a large portion of the seeds he sold over the internet to the United States. Though he has never been to Washington State, Emery plead guilty to the “crime” there in order to ensure two of his associates would have lenient sentences and that he would not face a 50-year prison sentence which the DEA would have sought if he plead not guilty. Emery plead guilty on September 21th, 2009 and now is waiting for the 30 day pre-extradition period to end.

The political motivations behind Marc Emery’s arrest:

Karen Tandy, the DEA administrator at the time of Emery’s arrest issued the following press release at the time of Mr. Emery’s 2005 arrest:

“Today’s DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group — is a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General’s most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets — one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.”

No one in Canada wanted Mr. Emery to be arrested and 55% of Canadians believe that marijuana should be legalized. It was not that Mr. Emery was breaking United States law that drove the DEA to arrest him but that Marc Emery has spent the vast majority of his seed-selling profits supporting anti-prohibition groups in Canada, the United Sates and around the world. The United States had to use a technicality to arrest Emery with no regard for Canadian sovereignty. The DEA arrested a Canadian citizen for political purposes and our government is doing nothing to stop this.

The Canadian Government can and should step in:

The Extradition Act requires “Dual Criminality” in both countries which, as mentioned, earlier doesn’t apply in Emery’s case, as this law is Dead Letter in Canada. If we decided to say the law is not dead letter it still doesn’t fulfill the dual criminality requirement, as the crime must be punishable by a minimum of two years incarceration, which it is not in Canada. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson could have stopped the extradition process at any time from 2005 to today. The Extradition Act has a huge loophole where the Canadian Justice Minister can refuse to extradite it “would be unjust or oppressive having regard to all the relevant circumstance.” The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms Section 9 protects against “arbitrary detainment or imprisonment.” As there are dozens of marijuana seed-sellers across Canada and the people arresting him admitted that it was politics not law that lead to his arrest, Marc Emery’s detainment and imprisonment seems the epitome of arbitrary.

Negative ramifications:

Marijuana is no worse for you than alcohol and the majority of Canadians realize this. The United States of America has decided that cutting off funds from anti-prohibition groups supercedes Canadian sovereignty. Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Government agree with the United States’ regressive drug policies so they have allowed Marc Emery to be sacrificed and Minister Nicholson is refusing to prevent the extradition. This sets a dangerous precedent: that the United States can enforce its laws in Canada without any governmental opposition.

Stephen Harper Ruins A Beatles Song

“I get high with a little help from my friends.” – Stephen Harper.

Does this mean the Prime Minister has changed his position on cannabis prohibition?

The Joint of ‘Decriminalization’ is being passed around Latin America

Mexico: Decriminalized small amounts of a wide variety of drugs (including heroin and marijuana) on August 21st.

Today, their supreme court in ruled that it is unconstitutional to punish people for using marijuana for personal consumption. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has repeatedly called for decriminalization of marijuana in Argentina.

Brazil/Ecuador: According to the Cato Institute and the Buenos Aires Herald have reported that the governments of Brazil and Ecuador are moving towards decriminalization.

The United States: President Obama has decided to continue fighting the “War on Drugs.

The Latin American Initiative on Drugs and Democracy has been pushing for progressive drug reform in Latin America. With the United States being obstinate and regressive in their drug policy (the American public are paradoxically against drug reform so it doesn’t really matter who is President) it is up to every other country in the Western hemisphere to behave rationally and legalize marijuana and decriminalize all other drugs.

Mexico and Argentina have taken a big step forward but unfortunately decriminalization is a haphazard solution. Marijuana is only illegal because for some reason, even though it is less dangerous as cigarettes and the same as alcohol, society has decided to prohibit it. Decriminalization says that it is bad but you wont be punished for using it. Countries that decriminalize marijuana should be lauded as the politicians responsible for doing so are extremely brave. Sometimes the government has to act and society has to catch up (see civil rights or health care in USA.) Decriminalization is a big first step as cannabis has been misunderstood for years and many Canadians believe the myths about cannabis.

President Obama’s Drug Czar: “Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary.”


- When Mr. Kerlikowske says “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit” he is being dangerously ignorant. President Obama appointed a man who sounds like a Republican when talking about marijuana.

- President Obama has been shockingly regressive when it comes to his policies on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and ending the failed “War on Drugs.”

- The United States has exported a policy that amounted to nothing at best and horribly backfired at its worst. The Conservative Party of Canada has appropriated this policy (along with the Republican habit of completely ignoring facts) for their own. Canadian’s and Mexican’s need to demand progressive drug laws since the United States of America is failing so badly on this front.

The federal government is not going to pull back on its efforts to curtail marijuana farming operations, Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Wednesday in Fresno.

The nation’s drug czar, who viewed a foothill marijuana farm on U.S. Forest Service land with state and local officials earlier Wednesday, said the federal government will not support legalizing marijuana.

“Legalization is not in the president’s vocabulary, and it’s not in mine,” he said.

Kerlikowske said he can understand why legislators are talking about taxing marijuana cultivation to help cash-strapped government agencies in California. But the federal government views marijuana as a harmful and addictive drug, he said.

“Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS — Save Our Sierra — a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County.

Marijuana plants valued at more than $1.26 billion have been confiscated and 82 people arrested over the past 10 days in Fresno County. The operation started last week and is continuing.

By comparison, Tulare County’s leading commodity — milk — was valued at about $1.8 billion in 2008.

Officials say the marijuana-eradication operation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the exact amount won’t be known until agencies can add up staffing, vehicle and other costs.

In Operation SOS, more than 314,000 plants were uprooted in 70 gardens — numbers expected to rise as the enforcement action continues. Agents also seized $41,000 in cash, 26 firearms and three vehicles.

Planning for the operation began in February and focused on marijuana crops being backed by Mexican drug cartels, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.

Mims said many cartels are involved, but she would not name any because the investigation is still under way. All but one person arrested was from Mexico, officials said.

One hundred growers may still be on the loose, said Fresno County sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ko. Many may have gotten rides out of the area, but some could still be in the Sierra, Ko said.

Last year, Fresno County deputies seized 188,000 marijuana plants.

In just one week, nearly twice as many plants were seized, Mims said, “so you can imagine how many we were missing.”

Statewide, more than 5.3 million plants were seized in 2008, or two of every three confiscated in the United States, said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.

“The amount of drugs out there scares most of us,” he said.

Volunteers are going into the gardens to clean up trash, dead animals and pesticides to return the land as close to its original condition as possible. But it could take years for the land to recover, because little can be done once fertilizers and pesticides seep into the ground or stream beds.

“For every acre of marijuana grown, 10 acres are damaged,” said George Anderson with the California Department of Justice.

Ignore The United States. Progressive Drug Policy Must Start In Mexico and Central/South America

– Drug decriminalization does help to reduce harm or drugs, lessen their use and is a viable solution. If Mexico wants to solve its drug problem it needs to be willing to sincerely work on harm-prevention.

- The consensus towards the need for reform in Latin America is supported by former and current political leaders, academics, medical professionals, community activists and regular citizens (of Latin America.) “Today, reform advocates populate every level of Mexican society and have hosted forums on drug legalization for universities, city councils, and, recently, the federal legislature.”

- A solid majority of American’s polled said they believe that the “War on Drugs” has failed and the same percentage also are against any more of legalization. This fact combined with President Obama’s cowardice on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mean that the current administration will be keeping with the, failed, status quo in the “drug war.” President Obama had already made it clear that the idea of a “war on drugs” was not workable so he is worlds ahead of the previous administration.

- The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy is co-chaired by former Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico.

- Latin American commission on drugs and democracy: Marijuana and cocaine for personal use should be decriminalized because the “war on drugs” has failed. This failed policy encourages corruption (among police officers, politicians and even judges) and violence that is threatening democracy throughout the continent. The Commission has called for International Convention to insure synergy in drug policy.*

- More than 57% of Chileans polled by the organization said they opposed marijuana legalization. Only slightly more than one out of five (21.7%) supported legalization for medical reasons, and slightly fewer than one out of five (19.6%) supported general legalization (Ipsos Polling.)

- For 2 years the Mexican army has been deployed to fight drug smugglers/growers/seller across Mexico. The drug trade is Mexico and Central/South America is closely connected to the illegal weapons trade. Both sides (the government and the smugglers) have been made the fight escalate (in terms of weapons and attacks) and the violence and deaths have also kept pace. The Mexican government said it has seized 2,239 grenades in the last two years, in contrast to 59 seized over the previous two years. Parts of Mexico have become war zones. The national Human Rights Commission recently condemned the military for human rights abuse claims in Michoacán, President Calderón’s home state and the starting point for the military anti-drug initiatives.

- Any Illegal Drug related proposal should come out of the Latin American countries as they are the ones who deal with drug related problems on a daily basis. The “War on Drugs” is an American policy that failed because it was imposed upon Latin America (and the world) without any input. The drug problem in Mexico and Central/South America cannot be solved in one stroke with mass legalization with no followup. Any solution needs to be treatment-oriented with serious changes in the social service and government attitude in those countries. Education and awareness is a powerful tool in reducing drug use, drastically different/more effective than prohibition. The problem with waiting for the United States to act is that the “War on Drugs” has been the most potent/effective export of United States foreign policy so it is entrenched throughout the Western hemisphere. The political system in the United States was designed so that drastic change is next to impossible. Just as many countries in Latin America threw off the yoke of colonialism they must now cast off this regressive failed policy and act on their own.

* Synergy is awesome.

Latin America’s Legalization Push

A call for drug policy-reform is echoing across Latin America, where a decades-long, U.S.-sponsored battle against drug production and distribution has fostered a climate of fear, insecurity, and death. Throughout the region, former and current political leaders have allied with academics, medical professionals, and community activists to issue an appeal for a multinational dialogue on alternatives to the current drug war, including a possible end to drug prohibition.

In February, the multidisciplinary Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy (co-chaired by former Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico) called the drug war a “failure” and issued a groundbreaking report urging other governments in the region–including the United States–to rethink prohibition policy. More recently, on a May 2009 trip to Atlanta, where he gave the commencement address at Emory University, former President Vicente Fox of Mexico told an interviewer that the time has come to “discuss and assess the possibility” of legalizing drugs.

Nowhere is the sense of urgency more acute than in Mexico, where President Felipe Calderon’s ongoing battle against the drug cartels has left parts of the country in a near perpetual state of combat. According to Milenio, a Mexican media association, the campaign has claimed more than 10,000 lives since December 2006, when Calderon deployed the military to help federal police in their fight against the cartels.

The death toll includes countless civilians, and Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission says the drug war has led to an exponential surge in reported cases of official abuse. Increasingly, human-rights activists are drawing a direct link between drug prohibition and human-rights violations. “Without a doubt, rethinking the criminalization of drug use would be a very important long-term strategy to improving the serious human-rights situation that Mexico is facing today,” says Ana Paula Hernandez, a Mexico City-based human-rights activist and political consultant. Mexico’s opposition parties are hoping to capitalize on the country’s mounting impatience with Calderon’s struggle against narcotic trafficking and its bloody side effects to regain seats in the legislature from the president’s party, the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN). As the Prospect went to press, midterm elections–scheduled for July 5–were gearing up to be, in part, a referendum on the president’s drug policies. Up for grabs are all 500 seats in Mexico’s lower House–the Chamber of Deputies–as well as governorships in six states and hundreds more positions in state legislatures and city halls. At least one party, the social democrat Partido Socialdemocrata (PSD) has placed legalization on its official platform, and members of one of the country’s two main opposition parties–the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD)–are floating their own legalization proposals. There are presently two active PRD bills to decriminalize marijuana: one at the federal level and one in Mexico City.

According to journalist Dan Feder, who covered the Mexican legalization movement extensively from 2002 until 2004, representatives of nearly every political party in Mexico have proposed legalizing drugs at one time or another. The country’s first legalization bill was introduced in 1998 by PAN Senator Maria del Carmen Bolado del Real. But Feder says it wasn’t until the 2000 presidential election–which saw the end of Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) supremacy in Mexican politics and the election of PAN’s Vicente Fox–that a dialogue on drug-policy reform entered mainstream political discourse. By the 2003 midterm elections, new parties like Mexico Posible–a forerunner of PSD–and progressive members of PRD were openly advocating the legalization of marijuana.

Today, reform advocates populate every level of Mexican society and have hosted forums on drug legalization for universities, city councils, and, recently, the federal legislature. Last October, President Calderon himself–a dedicated social conservative–sent a proposal to the Mexican Senate that would decriminalize the possession of small quantities of most drugs, giving users the option of seeking treatment to avoid criminal prosecution while tightening penalties for street dealing. The so-called Ley de Narcomenudeo was passed by both houses of Congress in late April and at press time was awaiting the president’s signature.

Advocates of legalization in Mexico greeted the measure with marked skepticism. Alejandro Madrazo Lajous, a Mexico City-based attorney who advises the reform community, says that while the current bill can theoretically be called decriminalization, in practice authorities maintain inordinate discretion over how it’s applied. “It’s not actually decriminalization insofar as the conduct is still considered a crime,” he says. “Technically the crime still has to be reported and investigated, but it stops there and never reaches court.” Instead, Lajous explains, after a first encounter with police, users are referred to public-health authorities who are empowered to make a determination of addiction (farmacodependencia) and recommend treatment. After a third police encounter, addicts will be compelled to enter treatment; if they refuse or fail to complete the program they face prosecution. Though compelled treatment should apply only to addicts, Lajous says that since farmacodependencia will be predicated on the vague standard of “showing any symptoms of dependency,” he suspects federal authorities will try to send everyone to treatment upon a third report.

Rather than representing an enlightened, treatment-oriented approach to drug use, critics say the new law is more akin to a similar proposal, floated by President Fox in 2004, to create a legal distinction between users and traffickers–not as a public-health initiative but as a necessary step to enforcing stricter penalties against low-level dealers.

“Basically, Fox said that it was important not only to prosecute the big drug barons but also to fight the petty traders who sell retail,” explains Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, director of the drug-policy reform group Colectivo por una Politica Integral Hacia las Drogas (CUPIHD). “But they realized that to enable such a thing they needed to determine who is a small dealer and who is a consumer, [so] Fox proposed establishing quantities of certain drugs to be considered legal for personal possession while tightening, by far, the penalties for those who violate.”

By 2006, Fox’s proposal had passed both houses of the Mexican Congress before the president himself vetoed the bill, allegedly under U.S. pressure.

Like Fox’s proposal, the Calderon bill includes strict mandatory minimums for street-level dealing, and for the first time allows undercover police to make street buys from dealers. The day after the measure passed the Chamber of Deputies, CUPIHD released a statement calling the law a half measure that could potentially do more harm than good. “Nobody can say that Calderon’s proposal is an initiative to decriminalize drug use,” Tinajero says. “If a consumer is caught by the authorities he has two options: either declare himself an addict and be assigned to a rehabilitation center and be ‘cured,’ or be declared a drug trafficker and go through a legal process that can lead to imprisonment. In reality the Calderon proposal will strengthen the war on drugs, especially against consumers.”

Elsa Conde, one of four representatives of the PSD in the Chamber of Deputies and the sponsor of a recent congressional forum on marijuana reform, voted against the bill and worries that the law will further criminalize the “poor and unprotected.” Given the tiny “legal” quantities proposed—5 grams for marijuana, a half gram for cocaine, and even smaller amounts of heroin and methamphetamines–Conde says more users and addicts are likely to be labeled dealers and subjected to the harsher penalties that the law mandates. “We didn’t support this [bill] because while we agree that consumers and traffickers must be adjudicated differently, this proposal will only serve to imprison more people and will not have any real impact on public safety or the supply of drugs,” she explains. “This proposal is not about respecting the rights of consumers.”

Her argument underscores a fundamental ideological split between Mexico’s two main reform groups. Unlike PRD and others who take a pragmatic approach to decriminalization, PSD and its supporters say reforming drug policy is as much about protecting the civil rights of consumers as it is about national security. “The PRD proposes the legalization of drugs only to combat drug trafficking, which I believe reveals, to a certain extent, its conceptual limitations [in thinking] about the problem; they have not yet understood the importance of defending consumers or of taking a civil-rights approach to this argument,” Tinajero says.

Accepting the validity of a pragmatic argument for ending drug prohibition, one must still question how much of an impact even full legalization in Mexico would have on drug violence so long as drugs remain illegal in the U.S. Because American demand will continue to fuel a market for cross-border narcotics traffic, cartel wars over lucrative drug routes are likely to continue regardless of the legal status of drugs in Mexico.

Ricardo Sala, director of the reform group Convivencia y espacio publico, A.C., concedes that under a legalization scenario traffickers will still try their best to reach the U.S. market, but he says regulation will give Mexican authorities more control over how and where drugs are produced and distributed in the country. “Legalization should mean regulation: a better control of drugs and drug availability,” he says. “If the Mexican state has a better control of drug production, transportation and commerce, then it will be more difficult for illegal trade to make it all the way from the fields or through Mexican territory up to the northern border.”

In April, President Barack Obama tapped U.S. Attorney Alan Bersin to serve as the nation’s first “border czar” and has pledged to send an additional 500 federal agents to the U.S.-Mexico border this year in response to drug violence. That’s on top of the estimated $700 million in aid, most of it to support law-enforcement efforts, earmarked for Mexico in 2009. But even with an end to prohibition now being discussed at the highest levels of government in Mexico, reform advocates on both sides of the border admit that any real progress on legalization will still require stronger support from one of the major parties. And that’s unlikely to happen without a change of policy in the United States.

Stephen Harper Seeks to Fill Canadian Prisons and Waste Tax-Payer Money

– Mandatory minimums fill our prisons. This costs more of tax-payers money.
– Mandatory minimums don’t deter anyone from using drugs.
– Mandatory minimums tie judges hands and fly in the face of judicial discretion.
– Mandatory minimums punish teenagers, not gang members.
– Mandatory minimums have a disproportionate effect on drug addicts, the poor, the young, blacks and other minorities.
– Mandatory minimums don’t help a drug addict with their problem, it just makes their addiction worse by compounding upon it with jail time.

It is very disappointing to hear the Liberals are going to vote for this legislation. True courage is standing up against failed policy that is detrimental to Canadians even though you know you will be painted as “soft on crime.” We need to change the debate on this, prevention, treatment and decriminalization work. It is Stephen Harper who is wasting tax-payer money and adding to Canada’s drug problem. It is Stephen Harper who is “soft on crime.”