Friday, October 3, 2008

Mexico seeks to legalize smalltime pot, cocaine use

02 Oct 2008 20:46:45 GMT
Source: Reuters

MEXICO CITY, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon,
locked in a high-stakes battle with drug cartels, wants to legalize
the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana, a plan that
will likely irk Washington.

Calderon, a conservative in power for nearly two years, sent a
proposal to Congress that would also scrap penalties on carrying
small amounts of heroin, methamphetamine and opium for personal use.

Reviving a similar push by his predecessor, Calderon's bill aims to
free up police to hunt for narcotics dealers and smugglers, but it
could meet opposition in largely conservative Mexico as well as in
the neighboring United States.

"What we are seeking is to not treat an addict as a criminal, but
rather as a sick person and give them psychological and medical
treatment," said Sen. Alejandro Gonzalez, head of the Senate's
justice committee.

Former president Vicente Fox tried to pass a similar bill in 2006 but
ditched it after Washington objected and critics both sides of the
border said laxer laws could lure "drug tourists" from north of the

Calderon's bill would mean people carrying up to 2 grams (0.07
ounces) of marijuana or opium, half a gram of cocaine, 50 milligrams
of heroin or 40 milligrams of methamphetamine would not face criminal

It would also give Mexican states the power to try drug dealers in
local courts, rather than at a federal level.

Drug use is much less common among young people in Mexico than in the
United States or Europe, but consumption is creeping up with the
growth of the middle class and as tighter border controls mean more
cocaine is kept back in the country.

Calderon has deployed thousands of troops to clamp down on the drug
gangs that shuttle Colombian cocaine up and over Mexico's northern

But cartel violence has soared as a result, killing some 3,000 people
this year, including eight that died in a grenade attack, the first
major strike on the public by drug hitmen. (Reporting by Miguel Angel


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