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Marijuana: Colorado's key to Mexican leader considering legal pot, advocate says

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto meeting with President Barack Obama shortly after his 2012 election.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto meeting with President Barack Obama shortly after his 2012 election.

In a recent interview, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he's open to the possibility of legalizing marijuana in his country -- a significant statement, given that he's opposed such a move in the past.

An advocate for progressive marijuana policies in the U.S. believes the pot-legalization examples set by Colorado and Washington state are a big reason why Peña Nieto's views appear to be changing.

A Reuters report quotes from a Peña Nieto interview with the Spanish newspaper El País. In it, Peña Nieto refers to marijuana legalization as a "growing phenomenon" and calls current prohibitive approaches as "failed policy" since they've been in place for thirty to forty years without causing the consumption or production of drugs to decrease.

Enrique Peña Nieto during a Univision appearance.
Enrique Peña Nieto during a Univision appearance.

As such, he argued that Mexico's drug laws need to be reviewed -- although he stopped short of calling for pot bans to be immediately rescinded.

"I repeat, I'm not in favor of legalization," he told the paper. "This is a personal conviction. But we can't continue on this road of inconsistency between the legalization we've had in some places, particularly in the most important consumer market, the United States, and in Mexico, where we continue to criminalize production of marijuana."

The chief locales for "inconsistency" in the U.S. are Colorado and Washington, where voters have sanctioned the limited sale of cannabis for recreational purposes to adults ages 21 and over. To Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Peña Nieto's comments mark a logical next step in doing away with bans altogether.

Neill Franklin.
Neill Franklin.

"Mexico looks to legalization efforts in Colorado and elsewhere and sees cartels losing power and income, crime rates falling, tax revenues rising and law enforcement better able to focus on violent crime," Franklin writes via e-mail. "How can we then ask them to maintain a policy responsible for 10,000 deaths a year in their country?"

Similar questions about being asked by Fernando Belaunzaran, a congressman with the left-wing opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution. In comments to Reuters, he argues that the liberalization of U.S. pot laws "looked irreversible" despite marijuana's continued illegality at the federal level. He adds that should California legalize cannabis in 2016, "maintaining the ban in Mexico won't be sustainable."

Franklin agrees. "As this policy progresses," he notes, "more states and foreign countries are going to be following the lead of Colorado and Washington, and if the federal government fails to act on a national level, it will be left behind."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa December 2013: "Marijuana: California advocates consider best ways to follow Colorado's legalization lead."


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