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Thursday, May 4, 2006
More on Mexico’s New Drug Law
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:35 am

Last Saturday I noted pending legislation in Mexico that would decriminalize small amounts of drugs for personal use.

Now word comes via the BBC that President Fox is asking for revisions to the legislation that it was thought he would sign (Mexico U-turn over drugs policy):

Mexico’s president has demanded changes to a bill passed by Congress that would see some drugs decriminalised, a day after saying he would sign it into law.

The bill, as it stands, would legalise possession of small amounts of cocaine, marijuana and heroin for personal use.

President Vicente Fox has returned the measure to Congress, saying it should make clear that possessing and using drugs will remain a criminal offence.

The likelihood is that the reconsideration is as a result of pressure from the United States.

One interesting interpretation of the bill was discussed on NPR yesterday, which is that part of the intent of the law was to lay down clear guidelines for law enforcement terms of setting penalties. Under the current law it is possible that addiction could be taken into consideration in terms of conviction, and the new law would make it easier for the courts to distinguish between true addicts and dealers who claimed to be addicts (on the assumption that dealers would be in possession of more drugs than a mere addict would be).

It is also noteworthy that under the legislation the states in Mexico (Mexico has a federal system) could have still made personal possession a crime.

As such, the bill wasn’t as much the making of Amsterdam south of the border as it may have been perceived to have been.

The NYT has more:

Mexico’s chief of the Federal Police, Eduardo Medina Mora, tried to clarify the law’s intent, saying its main purpose was to enlist help from the state and local police forces. Until now, selling drugs has been solely a federal offense, and the agents charged with investigating traffickers are stretched thin, he said.

Mr. Medina Mora, the main architect of the first measure, which Mr. Fox sent to Congress in January, said it was true the law would make it a misdemeanor to possess small quantities of illegal drugs, but he added that people caught with those drugs would still have to go before a judge and would face a range of penalties. “Mexico is not, has not been and will not be a refuge for anyone who wants to consume drugs,” Mr. Medina Mora said.

The current law has a provision allowing people arrested on charges of possessing drugs to argue they are addicts and that the drugs were for personal use. The new law sets an upper limit on how much of each drug one could possess and still claim to be using it to support a habit, Mr. Medina Mora said, and stiffens penalties for people possessing larger amounts of drugs.


  1. No doubt there was US pressure, but the bill was also amended to make it much more liberal than what Fox had wanted.

    The LA Times had one paragraph deep within its article on this yesterday that said no one knew who had amended the bill or when. The whole process shows how non-professionalized the Mexican congress is. Members serve one term, are basically pawns of their party leaderships, and have no staff for reviewing bills. Somewhere along the line, the text was switched and, with the party leaders having agreed to pass “the bill”, no one noticed till too late that “the bill” had been altered. Or at least that is the account the Times had. I am going to try to verify it.

    (I am not sure which parties passed this bill. It passed by a large majority, however. Fox’s PAN does not have a majority on its own in either house.)

    Comment by Matthew Shugart — Thursday, May 4, 2006 @ 9:44 am

  2. Interesting–this is something I had not yet heard.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, May 4, 2006 @ 10:01 am

  3. […] wo about drug policy, has an informative post on the pending Mexican drug legislation that I mentioned this morning. The more I read, the more this ends up being much ado about nothing.


    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Even More on the Mexican Drug Legislation — Thursday, May 4, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

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