Monday, September 14, 2009

Opinions on Decriminalization

The NY Times asked a handful of experts for their opinion about Mexico decriminalization, and compiled them here. They range from the insightful to the silly and overwrought (the Drug Free America Foundation woman who "fear[s] for Mexico's future"; there are, of course, lots of reasons to fear for Mexico's future right about now, but, even if you think it is a bad idea, decriminalization shouldn't be ranked above 179 on that list). Collectively, they left me convinced of the unlikelihood of a surge in US drug tourism.

Jorge Castañeda's contribution offers a couple of sharp insights, but this is a problematic passage:
The law actually is part of a campaign to justify President Calderón’s war of choice on drugs by stating that drug consumption in Mexico has increased over the past 10 years. But the government’s own unpublished but leaked National Addiction Survey for 2008 shows that this is not the case. The growth of marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine consumption is flat in all categories (addiction, occasional use, at least once in a lifetime use), and while cocaine addiction, for example, did rise from 300 000 victims in 2002 to 450 000 in 2008 (a 50% increase, or roughly 6% per year), it did so from a tiny baseline, for a tiny percentage (0.4%) of Mexico’s population, a much smaller share than for the US, Western Europe and practically every country in Latin America.
According to what I've read about the survey, he's incorrect; marijuana use increased from 3.6 to 4.4 percent of the population. That's a marginal increase, but it's not flat. Furthermore, the stats for addiction in major cities are reportedly much higher, both for marijuana and harder drugs. And while the "tiny baseline" does indeed make the situation much different in Mexico than in Western Europe or the US, it also means that the growth potential for Mexican drug use is much higher.

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