In Mexico, Is Legalized Pot Just A Pipe Dream?

According to npr.org: They were astonishing comments from a cabinet member made in the most deliberate of settings.

At a conference in late January, Mexico’s top tourism official told reporters legalizing marijuana would help combat an epidemic of violence that has enveloped parts of the country.

“It is absurd that we have not taken that step,” Tourism Secretary Enrique de la Madrid said. He said cannabis legalization should start in Baja California Sur, a state with hot spots like Los Cabos, and Quintana Roo, where Cancún is located. Both regions saw spikes in violence last year.

The comments ricocheted across the Mexican media. Not only were they unexpected, but they also came six months before a presidential election in which a major debate is how to proceed with a U.S.-backed drug war that has contributed to Mexico’s highest homicide rate on record.

“This is the first time that we hear a top-level official in office recognize that prohibition does engender violence,” said Alejandro Madrazo, a professor in the drug policy program at the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics in Mexico City. “We shouldn’t say, ‘What did the secretary smoke?’ We should take it seriously.”

Tourism Secretary De la Madrid later said the idea he was airing at the conference was his own, tweeting: “I want to emphasize that my opinion about marijuana legalization is a reflection in a personal capacity, based on analysis and study of the issue for many years. I am convinced that we should debate it, as part of the solution to violence and insecurity in Mexico.”

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