Mexican president proposes pot decriminalization

Mexican president proposes pot decriminalization
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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday proposed allowing marijuana users to possess larger amounts of the drug, and releasing those convicted of low-level drug offenses.

Peña sent the bill to the Mexican senate, where the body's president, Roberto Gil Zuarth, praised the move toward liberalization of drug policy but criticized the measure.

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"To move the threshold from 5 to 28 grams isn't enough if one has to go to the black market now to get the 28 grams," said Gil, of the opposition center-right National Action Party.

Peña, known for his personal opposition to full legalization of drugs, said his measure is a step "toward a new paradigm that views drugs from a perspective of prevention, health and human rights."

Sen. Agustín Basave Benítez of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution similarly called it a step in the right direction, but added that the measure did not go far enough.  

Basave said he supported a legal approach of hurting organized crime syndicates financially, instead of taking down drug kingpins who could easily be replaced.

"Let’s hit them where it hurts, and we’ll let informed adults decide and addicts to be treated because it’s a health problem," Basave said.

Gil, who last month introduced a much more aggressive drug proposal, worried about what would happen if U.S. border states legalized local marijuana production. 

"What will happen to Mexican marijuana production that used to go to markets in California? It'll stay in the country, and if it stays in the country, there will be oversupply, with oversupply prices go down, and if prices go down, more people will be willing to consume it," Reforma newspaper quoted Gil as saying. 

Mexico's incarceration rate has increased steadily from 2000, when the country held 156 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, to 2014, when the rate was 214 per 100,000, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

The move coincided with Peña's return from a Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem, summoned by Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala — all major drug producers or drug transit countries — to promote a new way of fighting the drug trade.

The three-day session ended Thursday, and an agreement was reached to allow "sufficient flexibility for States parties to design effective national drug policies according to priorities and needs," according to a UN press release.

Peña, speaking to the General Assembly on Tuesday, said previous anti-drug measures by the international community "have been frankly insufficient."

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales added that "countries like Guatemala have taken the worst part by bearing the unfair burden of loss of human life."

Before this latest reform, UN conventions dictated a supply-side approach, with drug trafficking attacked at the source — arguably placing a heavier load on producer and transit countries than on consumer countries, such as the United States.

Peña said world drug policy should "transit from mere prohibition to effective prevention and regulation. Thousands of lives depend on it."