MEXICO: Mexico could legalize marijuana within the next five years, stripping brutal drug cartels of a major source of income, former President Vicente Fox said on Friday.
Fox, who battled the powerful cartels while president between 2000 and 2006, has since become a staunch advocate of reforming Mexico’s drug laws, arguing that prohibition has helped create the criminal market that sustains the gangs.
Under his successor, Felipe Calderon, Mexico launched a military offensive to crush the cartels, but the violence spiraled instead, and more than 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related bloodletting since the start of 2007.
Legalization was the best way of ending the “butchery” of the drug gangs, Fox said as he hosted a conference in support of the measure in his home state of Guanajuato in central Mexico.
President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, is opposed to legalization, but he has said that the decision by the U.S. states of Washington and Colorado to legalize recreational marijuana use has given him a more open mind.
Asked by Reuters whether Mexico could legalize marijuana by the time Pena Nieto’s term ends in 2018, Fox said:
“I think it’s going to happen much sooner. Once California gets into this, Mexico is going to be obligated to speed up its decision process.”
Previous bills to legalize marijuana in Mexico have failed to move forward and a majority of Mexicans oppose such a move.