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Mexico Legalizes marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and even LSD!

Smoking potNOT…Sorry for you who wish this were true;  many have told me in the last few days that Mexico has legalized the use of small quantities of Marijuana, Cocaine, Meth and LSD and that is NOT the case.

Thanks to headlines from major new services such as NY times; Mexico Legalizes Drug Possession, Fox News: MEXICO’S Congress Legalizes Drugs for Personal Use and Channel 10 San Diego News headlining: Mexico OKs Small Amounts Of Pot, Cocaine, Heroin, Meth are just a few of the very misleading headlines that give the people the wrong perception of what Mexico’s new drug law is about.

After a little research and getting past the usual misinformation by leading journalist (as my own purposeful misleading headline reads for this story); I realized why the new law was created. The original and current concept behind decriminalizing small quantities of drugs in Mexico is not to make it more of a party country or to just give up on the drug problem but quite the opposite. Their intentions are spelled out in the fact if you are caught using these drugs and only have small quantities in your possession you will be warned and not made a criminal. However if you are warned 3 times you are considered a habitual user and therefore will be required to go into a mandatory rehabilitation program. This bill also evidently is allocating for funds to create such rehabilitation facilities. One interesting fact though is that the government has not set penalties as of this time if you do not go for rehab; this may change.

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What Mexico’s Federal government has done is decriminalized small quantizes of these drugs in hopes of creating an avenue of help addicts get of these substances by not making the people criminals but providing government funded re-hab.

4 lines of CocaineBernardo Espino del Castillo of Mexico’s Attorney General's office has been repeatedly quoted "This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty," As Espinoza further was quoted in an Associated Press (AP) article saying that “in practice, small users almost never did face charges anyway. Under the previous law, the possession of any amount of drugs was punishable by stiff jail sentences, but there was leeway for addicts caught with smaller amounts”.

"We couldn't charge somebody who was in possession of a dose of a drug, there was no way ... because the person would claim they were an addict," he told Mark Stevenson the AP reporter.

Despite the provisions, police sometimes hauled in suspects and demanded bribes, threatening long jail sentences if people did not pay. "The bad thing was that it was left up to the discretion of the detective, and it could open the door to corruption or extortion," Espino del Castillo said.

This new law was not easily ratified by Mexico’s Congress or originally endorsed by President Felipe Calderon. This change in the law was originally passed by the congress of Mexico in 2006 but was never signed into law by ex-President Fox because of pressure by you know who, ex U.S. President Bush junior. This decriminalization bill was finally as of Friday August 21st 2009, signed into law by President Calderon with some modifications and stipulations from the original bill that was given a final passage 53-26 by Mexico’s senators in April of 2006.

The new paraphrased and translated law reads as:

The maximum amount of marijuana for "personal use" under the new law is 5 grams (the equivalent of about four Marijuana cigarettes). The limit for cocaine is a half gram, the equivalent of about 4 "lines” and for other drugs, the limits are 50 milligrams of heroin, 40 milligrams for methamphetamine and 0.015 milligrams for LSD.

The Federal government of Mexico also explained that one major motivating factor to decriminalize these personal amounts is to cut down on the corruption of city and state police illegal tactics of threatening and “shaking down” people for money. While the local police in most areas of Mexico have not tried to convict people of small amounts they have used this as a method to scare people and take “mordida” from them or “they will put them in jail”. Obviously with this new law, that power has been taken away and this will not be available for corrupt police to illegally threaten nationals or tourists any longer.

The Mexican government wants to focus their law enforcement resources towards traffickers and distributors of these drugs while making it easier to get help if you are an addicted user. This comes at a time that Mexico has internationally been known to be in a major drug war and the government has decided it is way more worthwhile to focus on these major criminals and let the little fish be for now, so to speak. Yes if there were no user there would be no need for distribution however at this time Mexico’s Federal and State Governments need all the resources to go after the people that are responsible for a war inside the Mexico and they feel this will help them by better using these resources.

Decriminalize vs legalize is like the difference of Pandemic as to epidemic in some ways. It sounds close seems close but are NOT the same thing by any stretch of the imagination which people seem to use when reading (or watching ) the news. People need to be careful of just listening to sound bites or reading headlines as they are very misleading if not even factual. Many people, when the swine flu sensationalizing began, did not even know what the word pandemic meant (including me), yet since it was close to epidemic it of course scared people even more. Once I took the time to look it up I wondered why the news kept using this word instead of saying, widespread or spreading worldwide. Simply put it does not sell as well; if it bleeds it leads as they say of modern day journalism these days.

So people please understand it is not really legal to use these drugs but the federal government has decriminalized these substances to focus on the bigger problem of violence and will wait and see how the new law may help others to stop doing the drugs. Obviously Mexico is not trying to encourage people to continue or start using drugs of any kind. Mexico’s government is more dedicated than ever to eliminate the violence associated with the so called “Drug War”.

On a foot note to this Argentina followed suit yesterday, August 25th as there Supreme Court Ruled it is unconstitutional to punish an adult for private use of marijuana. As long as the personal user is not harming anyone the Supreme Court ruling was unanimous which I believe is another sign the governments around the world are beginning to see that what has been the solution in the past has not been working and therefore are going to be trying something new. The state of California has also in the recent past looked at truly legalizing Marijuana and taxing it in order to help with the increasing debt in that state.

In Mexico we can only hope that it helps get people clean while increasing their safety and stopping the horrible violence around the globe from drug cartels, traffickers and distributors. Your comments are always welcome and so please feel free to email your comments and concerns as I know many have them and we will try and keep you up to date as to how this does truly effect the lives of those living and traveling Baja or Mexico in general.

References used :Reuters, Associated press, NY Times, LA Times