Mexican Legislature Votes for Drug Decriminalization

President Felipe Calderon is expected to approve legislation passed by the Mexican Congress that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, and other drugs, the Los Angeles Times reported June 21.

Users caught with five grams of marijuana or 500 milligrams of cocaine who intend to use the drugs for “personal and immediate use” will not be criminally prosecuted, for example, according to the legislation. Police will notify the individuals of available clinics and encourage them to enter treatment programs, however.

The Mexican Congress passed the bill quietly during the height of the swine-flu outbreak. Bill opponents fear that the legislation will send the wrong message to narcotics traffickers and lead to an influx of “drug tourists” from other countries who are looking for drugs.

“Allowing the carrying of certain amounts of drugs will create more consumers,” said Oscar Villalobos Chavez, social-development secretary for Chihuahua state, which borders Texas.

Calderon proposed the decriminalization bill in an effort to separate small-time users from big-time dealers. His plan is to focus crime-fighting resources on dealers and drug barons, rather than consumers.

“The important thing is . . . that consumers are not treated as criminals,” said Rafael Ruiz Mena, secretary general of the National Institute of Penal Sciences. “It is a public-health problem, not a penal problem.”

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