Mexico Makes Small-Scale Drug Possession Legal
Mexico today announced that they will make small-scale drug possession legal, so that means a small amount of marijuana, cocaine, heroine will now be legal to carry; this moves comes in the midst of a major war on drugs on Mexico's streets, but supporters say this was still a good move.
A small-scale amount is considered 5 grams of marijuana, which is about four joints, half a gram of cocaine, 50 miligrams of heroin, 40 miligrams of methamphetamine and 0.015 miligrams of LSD.
Prosecutors say that this new law will allow Mexico's police officers the ability to leave casual users of drugs alone and concentrate on the bigger drug busts that are causing so much violence in the country.
"This is not legalization, this is regulating the issue and giving citizens greater legal certainty," said Bernardo Espino del Castillo of the attorney general's office.
The law states that drugs for 'personal use' are ok, including LSD and methamphetamine, and people found with small amounts will no longer face criminal prosecution. Small users however, never really did face charges as most addicts caught with small amounts would be let go.
"We couldn't charge somebody who was in possession of a dose of a drug, there was no way ... because the person would claim they were an addict," he said.
Despite the provisions, police sometimes hauled in suspects and demanded bribes, threatening long jail sentences if people did not pay.
"The bad thing was that it was left up to the discretion of the detective, and it could open the door to corruption or extortion," Espino del Castillo said.
Anyone caught with small amounts however will still be encouraged to get treatment, and when they are caught a third time, that treatment will be mandatory.
Mexico wants to put a divide between the casual users, and those who traffic large amounts of drugs, causing violence that has contributed to over 11,000 deaths since 2006.
But one expert saw potential for conflict under the new law.
Javier Oliva, a political scientist at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said the new law posed "a serious contradiction" for the Calderon administration.
"If they decriminalize drugs it could lead the army, which has been given the task of combating this, to say 'What are we doing'?" he said.