The Mexican Supreme Court's marijuana ruling could save lives on both sides of the border.
Mexico's War on Drugs was a violent failure. Legalizing marijuana may right that wrong.
In 2006, then-Mexican President Felipe Calderón went all in on his country's version of the War on Drugs.
Calderón empowered the military to take action against Mexican drug cartels and put an end to the flow of drugs to the United States. What he got was unprecedented violence, with 100,000 dead and more than 26,000 people missing.
As U.S. decriminalization and legalization policies took hold, illegal importation of marijuana from Mexico fell.
This may seem obvious, but once Americans were able to legally grow, purchase, and possess marijuana (as we can in an increasing number of places within the U.S.), there was less incentive for the cartels to continue taking risks in drug-running.
Time reports that U.S. Border Patrol seizures of marijuana fell from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Even more impressive is that in 2014, with only five U.S. states legalizing marijuana, the Mexican army confiscated nearly a third less marijuana at the border than in 2013.
With more Americans able to acquire marijuana legally, illegal trade between Mexico and the U.S. declined, as did violent crime.
In 2011, Mexican police departments reported 22,852 murders. In 2014, that number dropped to 15,649. Reduce the cashflow to cartels, and they're less able to enact violence against others — it's simple math.
But now, a recent ruling from Mexico's Supreme Court might bring the country a whole lot closer to decriminalizing marijuana and putting an end to the violence.
Though the court didn't strike down any of the country's existing anti-marijuana laws, today's ruling, which states that individuals in Mexico have the right to grow marijuana for personal use, puts those laws on extremely shaky ground. After all, if people have a right to possess and use marijuana, existing laws stating the contrary may soon fall to legal challenges.
Calderón left office in late 2012. His successor, President Enrique Peña Nieto, unveiled a new policy aimed at reducing violence instead of engaging cartels in military standoffs. While he doesn't support the legalization of marijuana outright, his approach has been significantly less destructive than Calderón's.
Will Mexico's marijuana laws ultimately fall? Will legalization continue to make its way across the U.S.? One can hope.
One can argue that alcohol and tobacco are more dangerous than marijuana. After all, no one has ever died of a marijuana overdose, and in states that have legalized it, there haven't been any of the ill effects opponents of legalization warned of. Once you factor in the 100,000-plus lives lost to cartel violence and the War on Drugs, legalization is a no-brainer.