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AMLO's Election A Sign of Hope For Mexican Cannabis Advocates

By Ayanna Rutherford
Jul 10, 2018

Earlier this month, Mexico elected longshot liberal candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their next President. The new President-Elect’s landslide victory signaled serious change for the country with many hopeful that his election will positively impact Mexico's marijuana policy. While there is some indication of where López Obrador stands on cannabis, his public position on the issue is still forming. However, what has been seen so far gives hope to marijuana advocates across the country.

Photo courtesy of AMLO

Legalization To Fight Mexican Cartels

According to an article in Herb, López Obrador was the only candidate to show an inclination towards legalizing cannabis in Mexico. Other noted that he made pro-legalization arguments out of his concern that cannabis prohibition allows Mexican drug cartels to thrive.

“Why not try it,” asked AMLO (the President-Elect’s adopted nickname) in early May, according to Herb.

In fact, AMLO has gone a step further in the past, according to Herb, suggesting amnesty for drug traffickers and farmers. And he’s not alone in this idea, as Colombia has gone so far to implement it in the past, and in doing so, finding success.

“He’s definitely willing to hear out details about cannabis legalization…He’s also the only candidate willing to hear us out in regards to marijuana, while other candidates stand against it,” said Rosalba Gonzalez, a medical marijuana advocate to Herb.

Photo courtesy of AMLO

Legalization Advocate on The Transition Team

Meanwhile, some have drawn the conclusion that AMLO is ready to legalize marijuana due to his appointment of Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero‏ as part of his transition team. Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court official, is a strong advocate of legalizing recreational marijuana in Mexico. She acknowledged that as part of her work on the transition team she will attempt to convince AMLO to legalize recreational cannabis.

As part of her advocacy, she makes a similar argument that pot proponents in the United States have made for years —the war on drugs has failed. In an op-ed piece for Milenio Justice Sanchez Cordero wrote, “[t]he illegal obtaining of drugs creates a personal risk for users and only benefits the criminal networks because their economic and belligerent wealth is fostered… It is known that the United States is the main consumer of drugs in the world; and 23 states of 50 that make it up have [legal] cannabis markets for recreational and medicinal use.”

She has also touted other countries with medical and/or recreational marijuana programs and Canada’s legalization of recreational marijuana as another reason why Mexico needs to change its laws.

Photo courtesy of AMLO

Amnesty and Transitional Justice In Mexico

Her plans for drug legalization go further than just lifting ending prohibition. She plans to get the incoming administration to apply policies that would include amnesty for marijuana cultivators, producers, and dealers using transitional justice.

Justice Sánchez Cordero explained the country's new approach to drug-related crimes. "Not only will it be amnesty, it will be a law to reduce jail time. We will propose decriminalization, create truth commissions, we will attack the causes of poverty, we will give scholarships to the youth and we will work in the field to get them out of the drug situation,” she said, according to Reuters.

Photo courtesy of AMLO

Mexicans Do Not Support Legalization, For Now

While AMLO and members of his transition team support legalizing marijuana most Mexicans do not. According to The Washington Post¸, "about 66 percent of Mexicans opposed the decriminalization of marijuana.”

Most of that opposition comes from the amount of pain the country has sustained due to drug trafficking by the cartels. The Washington Post reports that 100,000 people have died at the hands of the cartels, while rampant political corruption is another underlying factor in the Mexican people’s attitudes towards legalization.

Meanwhile, vocal anti-marijuana opponents like outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto`have seen their positions on marijuana evolve. Nieto went from being anti-cannabis to signing a decree legalizing medical marijuana in 2017.

His shift comes from the belief that drug use is a public health issue instead of a criminal issue. During an address to the Mexican General Assembly Special Sessions, Peña Nieto discussed his view on how the country should treat issues of drug use. He said “[w]e must move beyond prohibition to effective prevention”, according to The Washington Post.

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