Many of you have heard quite a bit about the War on Drugs in Mexico; you’ve heard it’s not going well in terms of curbing the cartels that battle for dominance in the country. For many, it’s an abstract thing that is accompanied by shocking numbers.
For example, in 2017, people in Mexico were being murdered at a rate of 69 people…per day. October 2017 was the bloodiest month in Mexico since 2011, with over 2,300 murder investigations being opened; in the first 10 months of 2017, almost 21,000 people were killed in the country.
These are hard statistics for many to wrap their head around, especially people who live in places where a single murder is so shocking that the local news covers it extensively. “Confrontation between members of different armed groups have really become an everyday scenario in many parts of the country,” Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said at a national security conference in November.
But it’s important to remember that these aren’t just numbers; they are individual people with families. Sure, some of them are involved in the drug trade and they know the risks involved. But many are not; they are innocent people caught in the crossfire and killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But what can be done? Going toe-to-toe and gun-to-gun with the cartels clearly hasn’t worked. The only other option is economic warfare, i.e. undercutting the profits that the cartels make and fight over. And the only way this can be accomplished is by legalizing the things that the cartels sell to make those massive, prohibition-inflated profits.
The obvious place to start is with marijuana, a relatively harmless substance that is only very valuable because it is illegal. This is not a new idea among politicians in Mexico; former President Vicente Fox has been talking about cannabis legalization in his country for years.
Now comes word that the country’s current Minister of Tourism is talking up the idea of legalization as a way to reduce crime, especially in areas of Mexico where tourists frequent. In comments made last week, Minister Enrique de la Madrid said that his country should follow the example of the United States and legalize in areas with popular support.
“It’s absurd that we’re not taking this step as a country,” de la Madrid said.
“Even if there’s work to do on the whole of the country, I’d like to see that it might be done in Baja California and Quintana Roo,” he added, naming two places hardest hit as of late with violence. Baja California includes the resort city of Los Cabos and Quintana Roo contains Cancun.
While many will point out cynically that this may just be an attempt to make the places tourists visit safer while ignoring the rest of the country, every tough journey has to start somewhere. In Mexico, marijuana legalization is a journey that must get started as soon as possible if any hope to reduce the violence can come into play.