Legalization of drugs -- long an issue championed mainly by fringe groups -- is rapidly moving to the mainstream in
Last week's surprise statement by former Mexican President
Fox, a former close U.S. ally who belongs to the same center-right political party as President
Fox's statement, first published Saturday in his blog, went far beyond a 2009 joint declaration by former Presidents
While the three centrist former presidents' proposal amounted to not prosecuting people for consuming marijuana, Fox's proposal calls for legalization of all major drugs -- the whole enchilada.
In an extended interview, Fox told me that he is making his proposal because drug-related violence in
"Prohibitionist policies have hardly worked anywhere," Fox told me. "Prohibition of alcohol in
Since possession of small amounts of marijuana has already been decriminalized in
"What I'm proposing is that, instead of allowing this business to continue being run by criminals, by cartels, that it be run by law-abiding business people who are registered with the
Fox called for a reversal of Calderón's decision to send the army into the streets to fight the drug cartels because "the army is not prepared to do police work, and we are seeing day to day how the army's image is losing ground in
Why didn't you come out with this proposal when you were president? I asked.
Fox responded that legalization was often discussed in Cabinet meetings during his presidency, but that the urgency of such a measure has increased since "because of the extraordinary cost we are paying in a drop in tourism, a drop in investments and a lack of attention to education and health."
In a separate interview,
Kerlikowske disputed the idea that alcohol prohibition drove up crime in
And he rejected the notion that there has been no major increase in drug consumption in
My opinion: I'm not convinced that a blanket legalization of drugs would work because government regulation of the cocaine and heroin businesses in countries that already have high corruption rates would result in greater official corruption.
On the other hand, it's clear that after four years of Calderón's U.S.-backed war on drugs, the cartels are smuggling more drugs, killing more people and becoming richer.
Perhaps the time has come to take a step-by-step approach and start a serious debate about passing laws that would regulate legal production of marijuana, alongside massive education campaigns to discourage people from using it.
Then, we could see who is right and consider what to do next.
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(C) 2010 Andres Oppenheimer