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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Los Angeles Times: The long arm of the drug war

 RISE AND FALL of Mexican drug-law reform over the last two weeks has been, for drug legalizers, a dizzying high followed by a painfully abrupt crash. U.S. drug authorities laid down their usual bummer: No user is going to get off easy on their watch. And thanks to the United States' overwhelming power and influence, their watch extends everywhere.
Mexico isn't the first nation to suffer side effects from America's estimated $30-billion-a-year drug war. A 2003 attempt by former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to liberalize drug possession laws met with threats from U.S. drug czar John Walters that the tougher resulting border security could hold up U.S.-Canadian trade, and the idea soon went up in smoke. Colombia has been for years the site of what is essentially a damaging and expensive proxy war in the service of the United States' delusion that it can wipe out cocaine production.
Still, both cops and heads must have been hallucinating if they thought Mexico's mild reform proposals would have ushered in some kind of lotus-eaters' utopia, a permanent Altered State down Mexico way.
The legislation, which passed Mexico's House and Senate with President Vicente Fox's initial support, would have legalized the possession of minute quantities of substances such as pot, cocaine and heroin (5 grams of pot, 0.5 grams of cocaine — only a few lines — and 25 milligrams of heroin), in an attempt to focus drug-enforcement resources on larger-scale dealers. But sales, and possession beyond the tiniest weekend's worth, would have remained illegal. State and local cops would have been dragged into a Mexican drug war that had heretofore been federal, increasing the total resources spent on drug enforcement — and introducing more cops to the lure of drug-money corruption.


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