U.S. Marijuana Laws Ricochet Through Latin America

  • Share
  • Read Later
Stringer / Reuters

A soldier throws a bundle of marijuana into a bonfire during a military operation at Tequila in Jalisco, Mexico, on Sept. 27, 2012

President Obama has yet to deliver a clear response to the November decision by Colorado and Washington to legalize recreational marijuana use — asked whether the government would enforce federal laws that override the verdict of those states’ referendums, he answered simply that he has “bigger fish to fry.” But leaders from across Latin America responded within days of the Colorado and Washington vote, demanding a review of drug-war policies that have mired the region in violence. Latin American decisionmakers are now openly questioning why they should continue to sacrifice police and soldiers to enforce drug laws when legal markets for marijuana now exist in the U.S.

“Everyone is asking, What sense does it make to keep up such an intense confrontation, which has cost Mexico so much, by trying to keep this substance from going to a country where it’s already regulated and permitted?” says Fernando Belaunzarán, a Congressman from Mexico’s opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party who introduced a marijuana-legalization measure in the legislature a week after the U.S. elections. The measure, Belaunzarán tells TIME, is modeled on the Washington State law and would put the federal government in charge of marijuana production, regulation and sales. The Congressman says he expects the lower house to convene public hearings on marijuana legalization by May 2013.

(MORE: Four Decades Later, It’s Time to Scrap the Dead-End Drug War)

Belaunzarán joins a growing list of Latin American leaders calling for a change in the drug-war paradigm — one that considers drug decriminalization and legalization as alternatives to the U.S.-led prohibitionist model, the enforcement of which has helped turn swathes of Latin America into the world’s most violent regions. Shortly after the U.S. elections, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, along with leaders from Honduras, Belize and Costa Rica, said the U.N. General Assembly should hold a special session on drug prohibition by 2015. They also called on the Organization of American States (OAS) to study the impact of current drug policy in the region. That OAS review, well under way, is expected to be concluded in June.

(MORE: How Latin America May Lead the World in Decriminalizing Drug Use)

A major concern centers on drug cartels. Estimates of Mexican cartel profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. vary from $2 billion to $20 billion annually. And recent studies suggest that the Colorado and Washington pot laws could dent cartel profits by up to 30% given the probable emergence of cheaper, U.S.-produced marijuana. That loss of revenue, and therefore of power, could generate more violence in the region, experts fear. But the notion that drug cartels would suffer mammoth losses remains an open question. It also underestimates the growing sophistication of Mexican criminal groups.

Mexican cartels have diversified their criminal portfolios with impressive speed since 2006, when Calderón began deploying the army against them. Besides marijuana profits, cartels generate an estimated $15 billion annually from human trafficking, preying on Central and South American migrants making their way north toward the U.S. Criminal gangs are also increasingly relying on Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil behemoth, for added income. Oil theft has surged in recent years, netting cartels roughly $500 million annually, according to Mexican studies. And the methamphetamine market represents another opportunity to supplement any revenue lost to marijuana sales. Cartels have responded to a recent drop in U.S. meth production by flooding the market with the synthetic drug, producing it on a mass scale in northern Guatemala.

“The [U.S.] marijuana laws will have absolutely no impact on criminal group’s balance sheets,” Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized-crime expert and senior research scholar at Columbia University, tells TIME. “They have diversified their criminal activity with astounding efficiency, just like any legal enterprise.”

Whether the U.S. laws will undercut cartels at all remains to be seen, but no impact is likely to be felt anytime soon. Still, the Washington and Colorado referendum results have reshaped the drug-war debate in Latin America, emboldening regional leaders to press for a global discussion on drug policy, organized through the U.N., aimed at changing drug-war tactics.

(MORE: Uruguay’s Plan to Legalize Marijuana Sales: Should the Rest of the World Follow?)

Until now, the U.N. has ignored those calls, but there are signs it may soon take up the matter, according to former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who, with the former Presidents of Mexico and Colombia, launched the hemispheric debate on drug decriminalization in 2009. That year he wrote an open letter criticizing the current drug war and calling on the region to discuss alternative strategies. “Members of the U.N. agree we need to revisit the subject, but the problem is that sectors within the U.N. that deal specifically with drugs are very conservative,” Cardoso tells TIME. “In my meetings at the U.N., I noticed that the pressure to unite a U.N. assembly specifically dedicated to discussing the subject is mounting. And that’s important.”

Global drug policy is unlikely to change soon. But decriminalization advocates see encouraging signs. In just a few months, they point out, the Marijuana-legalization discussion has reached levels of urgency and legitimacy never before seen. Marijuana legalization, they point out, is now a political reality throughout the hemisphere. They are also encouraged by President Obama, who recently framed the marijuana conflict between state and federal law as one to be resolved, instead of simply dismissing state law. “It’s time the world discuss a new paradigm to confront drugs,” says Belaunzarán. “In Latin America it’s already happening. And the U.S. is applying it de facto because states are already regulating marijuana.”

MORE: Legalizing Marijuana: Why Joe Biden Should Listen to Latin America’s Case

68 comments
Marian22
Marian22

Hello Good Friends of the world, I am Marian Carson, from Texas, U.S.A who suffer from breast and lungs cancer, basically a Death Sentence on my life and i thank you all my friends for your prayer and concern toward my life and i pray for God to be with you all. You my dear and favorite friends gave me Doctor Rick Simpson contact, guaranteeing me that he was the one to help me cure my cancer and Thank God to the Rick Simpson who God has sent to help me through my friends cure the terrible cancer illness which has almost taken my life. The thoughts of having Breast and lungs Cancer burns and itches simultaneously in my heart that i was dead alive. I heard that Hemp Oil could help, my friend gave me assurance that Doctor Henderson will cure my cancer, for he has done it for several of them and for the price i was willing to try anything that would save my My Life, what I found out was astonishing! It was instantly getting better and better after 60 days of using Doctor Rick Simpson Hemp Oil and most of the virus are gone and just little medication left for me. I am very grateful to Doctor Henderson for Selling the Hemp Oil for me and his Medical Advises, for all those that have problems with Cancer Please Please Kindly let the Doctor Know, he will help you with all you need to cure your cancer, he is trust lovely, caring,wealthy and sincere. Talk to him with this Email:cancermedicationtreatment@live .com   He saved my Life that is why i will keep on giving his testimonies. Marian Carson Texas, United State of America. contact the Best Doctor Rick Simpson: cancermedicationtreatment@live .com he will save your life and your family.

RickRosio
RickRosio

As a patient and provider I have had the privilege to  see first hand the benefits of a cannabis therapy program. The needless suffering that can be stopped among the sick and dying by a structured cannabis program should not be a political tool. This old racist law left over from 1937 is an abomination and should be put to the dung heap of history...  Watch and listen to the words of the dying pleading for the need for safe access to cannabis therapy and then ask yourself why we tolerate this from our elected officials....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4el6EGqcUw

katehannish
katehannish

Hello,

I am Mrs. Kate Hannish, i was diagnose with Cancer of the kidney and was told by my Doctor that the Virus was in the last stage.

My Doctor told me that i had few months to leave, but he said because of the love he had for me he told me about the Hemp Oil and said it is going to go a long was saving my life from this cancer and He introduce me to Doctor Nathan Kisper and said he would be able to get me the Hemp oil wherever i need it.

I contact him and he delivered the oil to me in Canada and after three Month of taking the Treatment there has been rapid improvement in my Cure and my Doctor said is no time the Cancer will be Gone. for all that has Cancer and don't no what to do about it. Kindly Contact Doctor Nathan Kisper: nathankispermedicalcare@gmail.com and see to your Healthy/Cancer Problems solved.

Kate Hannish
Canada

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

On the contrary, Obama has delivered a clear message on how he is going to respond the marijuana legalization.  He is training Mexican commandos to enforce federal laws in the U.S.  This will be done through the NAFTA program that already allows Mexican trucks to operate within the United States. One advantage is that Mexican law enforcement is not bound by the United States Constitution.

Paulpot
Paulpot

 What everyone has failed to recognize is that UN drug laws no longer exist. 
They have rendered null, void and utterly powerless by the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. In fact the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes since 1996 already made it obvious that UN law was utterly meaningless. Has the UN instituted sanctions against the US or any of its states for liberalizing its drug laws. Not at all and there is no indication that they are about to now. When Latin America wakes up and realizes this they will just go ahead and do it. And it seems Uruguay is about to, so really the end of the drug war has begun. War is Over!

KirkSherrill
KirkSherrill

Nothing is horrible now except that our government is stating on one hand that Cannabis is dangerous and highly addictive with NO medicinal benefit, listed as Schedule I on the CSA 1970. The other hand, our government owns the cannabinoid patents patented as antioxidants and neuroprotectants. US Patent # 6,630,507......we have a dichotomy in law.

MuzzyLu
MuzzyLu

Marijuana was legal in America for years before it was banned, and nothing horrible happened. Cannabis will only help people in pain, and be a very mild tame recreational habit to others. Better for America that many people use marijuana than most other drugs and alcohol. Marijuana is a very healthy food if taken as an edible, not smoked. There is a great $2.99 e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints.

robynca
robynca

@TimPadgett2 Your views on US Marijuana laws align w/new book by retired cop Howard Rahtz. Review copy available.

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

The alcohol pushers are afraid people will switch from addictive alcohol to non-addictive herb.  The liver transplant industry is worried that they won't get all that medicaid money transplanting livers.  The oil companies are worried that hemp will replace dinosaur fuel.  The Prozac pushers are worried about people smoking herb instead.  The anti-gun lobby is worried that there won't be enough shooters under the influence of Prozac.  I'm surprised that the prohibitionists haven't resorted to nuclear weapons as this is so frightening.


drudown
drudown

Taken to its illogical conclusion, this article seemingly implies that Latin America's objection is not to the Drug War- and patent waste of life, Police Power and fiscal resources- but rather, the recent voter referendums in CO and WA, respectively.

DaWeedMon
DaWeedMon

@TIME @TIMEWorld at the south american summit last year all of those countries were hoping on a u.s stance for legalization, never happened

AirManFlow
AirManFlow

@TIME @timeworld - Decrease in profits & power of drug cartels will have a positive impact on reduction in crimes like human trafficking

gothp
gothp

@ethannadelmann ... " Why is global drug policy unlikely to change soon ? " ...

Dimbo56
Dimbo56

@weed_the_people serious question, why couldn't the cartels go "legit" & be an actual supplier? They already have the supply we have demand

Linda Lively Campbell
Linda Lively Campbell

No, the cartels do not make as much money from marijuana sales. The focus will continue on the hard stuff.

MrRealistic
MrRealistic

@TIME they've beat the skins off the war drums, the people have decided they're not trippy enough.

farah71266
farah71266

@TIME @timeworld decrease in profits & power of drug cartels will have a positive impact on reduction in crimes like human trafficking

Natasha Coe
Natasha Coe

If people would rather get crappy South American marijuana instead of from the Pacific northwest or their own back yard, then they can have at it as far as I'm concerned.

Rivka54
Rivka54

@TIME @TIMEWorld a ricochet by definition is an echo.....................

ingrasam
ingrasam

@TIME @timeworld #legalizeit

nigeltayco
nigeltayco

@TIME @TIMEWorld ILLEGAL DRUGS IS SO RAMPANT EVEN THE US NAVY FIND IT HARD TO APREHEND...

thomaslamoureux
thomaslamoureux

@TIME @timeworld re: pot legalization - Latin American governments are all for for obvious reasons while their people remain conservative.

Yvette Marie Gaudreau
Yvette Marie Gaudreau

figures. could grow it here and make a profit but let's help other countries get richer while complaining there are no jobs and too many ppl on welfare.

Nathan Nguyen
Nathan Nguyen

Were he to end it, he'd make his greatest triumph, but I see not the courage in him to do so.

greenlife711
greenlife711

VISIT THIS LINK TO SEE TONS OF PROOF THAT EATING CANNABIS OIL CURES CANCER AND VIRTUALLY ALL HEALTH ISSUES!

THIS IS NO JOKE THESE PEOPLE ARE MURDERS THEY HAVE CRIMINALIZED PEOPLE FOR THE CURE AND COMMIT MASS GENOCIDE!

youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwBs_ihArc1lCYDym-DH4EsDMR_UMTtA6

YOUTUBE.COM/GREENLIFE711


WHY DOES IT CURE EVERYTHING? THANK YOUR ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM

Cannabinoid Receptors are in our skin, brain, immune system, intestines, liver, spine, ribs, white blood cells, & bone marrow (STEM CELLS) etc. Without the 600 Million+ year old Endocannabinoid System*, Stem Cells would act like a car without a driver. *Dr. Guy, Executive Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals, London, UK

"1 pound of dry quality Cannabis Hemp bud will usually produce 60g of high grade (Rick Simpson's Cancer Cure ALL 95-98% THC Hemp) Oil. About 90 days to ingest the full 60g treatment, 3 (half a grain of short grained rice) doses per day. Most increase by doubling every 4 days. (DO NOT TAKE CHEMO OR RADIATION) If damaged by Chemo/Radiation sometimes patients will need 120-180g over a longer period of time. I recommend a maintenance dose of 1g per month (32.87 milligrams per day OR 60g (60,000 milligrams) = 5 years)."
Rick Simpson

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT FOLKS, THEY HAVE BEEN WITHHOLDING THE CURES FOR CANCER AND MUCH MORE ALL FOR PROFIT. YOU CAN THANK THEM FOR THIS GENOCIDE AND MILLIONS OF DEATHS ALL FOR MONEY. THIS GOES MUCH DEEPER. GO AHEAD VISIT THE LINK AND SEE FOR YOURSELF.

YOUTUBE.COM/GREENLIFE711

youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwBs_ihArc1lCYDym-DH4EsDMR_UMTtA6

svkscorpio6
svkscorpio6

@TIME @TIMEWorld So, consumption of Marijuana would not be an offense in US. Good. So, marijuana can now be distributed in churches in US.

Recipes4Soup
Recipes4Soup

@TIME @TIMEWorld with any luck, they will change the drug war all over the world. Then we can quit fighting about it.

sahiwalia
sahiwalia

@TIME @timeworld eventually it will work.

Ksenias7
Ksenias7

@TIME @TIMEWorld 30% of which number? $2 billion or $20 billion per year. LOL on all of this.

Ksenias7
Ksenias7

@TIME @TIMEWorld "Mexican cartel profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. vary from $2 billion to $20 billion annually...could dent by 30%"

mediate4ueu
mediate4ueu

@TIME @TIMEWorld Slow down man 'til I think.........................................................................................Yeope...

pg2109
pg2109

@katehannish Warning:
There is no Dr. Nathan Kisper, Dr. Mike Henderson, Dr. Smith Williams, Dr. Sedney Carey, Dr. Mac Donnald, Dr. Bryan Vance etc.. Only the big scammers hiding behind these names. Unfortunately I am the one of their victims. Be careful and don't trust them and in any of their "stories"!!!

edbuscaglia
edbuscaglia

@claudiacruz2001 SOLO el articulo d @Time está en ingles. El programa d NatGeo esta en español. Gracias