When U.S. voters think about the ongoing war on drugs, they likely think about the billions spent by the federal government with little to no positive results to show for it. They think of the mass incarcerations for seemingly minor offenses. What most Americans don’t think about, however, is the impact it has on other countries — especially our neighbors to the south.
The U.S.-backed war on drugs has been linked to sociopolitical upheaval, mass violence, and widespread political corruption in Mexico and other countries in Central and South America. However, a recent Mexico Supreme Court vote could open the door to change in Mexico.
The country’s high court declared Wednesday that people should have the right to grow and distribute marijuana legally. The ruling itself does not strike down any existing prohibition laws, but according to a report from the Boston Globe, it does lay “the groundwork for a wave of legal actions that could ultimately rewrite them, proponents of legalization say.”
“For legal marijuana to become the law of the land, the justices in the court’s criminal chamber will have to rule the same way five times, or eight of the 11 members of the full court will have to vote in favor,” the Globe adds.
The ruling reflects not only a changing dynamic in Mexico, but in many countries in the Western Hemisphere that have been adversely affected by tough-on-crime policies. Uruguay, Chile, and 20 states have legalized pot for medical and/or recreational use, and even more states are considering similar reform.
“Uruguay enacted a law in 2013 to legalize marijuana, although the creation of a legal marijuana industry in the small country has unfolded slowly. Chile gathered its first harvest of medical marijuana this year. In Brazil, the Supreme Court recently debated the decriminalization of marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs. Bolivia allows traditional uses of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, while in the northern part of the hemisphere, Canada’s new prime minister has pledged in the past to legalize marijuana.
“Many leaders in Latin America have called for a shift in the war on drugs, including President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. In May, his government ordering a halt to the aerial spraying of illegal coca fields, rejecting a major tool in the US-backed anti-drug campaign because of concerns that the herbicide spray causes cancer.
“Although Santos is one of Washington’s allies in the region, he has pointed out the incongruity of jailing poor farmers for growing marijuana while it is being decriminalized in the United States.” – The Boston Globe
Read the full article from the Boston Globe here.
Marijuana is still technically illegal in all 50 states in the U.S., whether or not a state approves legislation or a citizen-backed initiative to legalize it for medical and/or recreational use. Unless the courts rule that drug laws and enforcement are the prerogative of the states or come to a similar conclusion as the Supreme Court in Mexico, federal law will always trump state law.
While the decision of the Mexico Supreme Court doesn’t change anything now, it could lead to major changes in the future, and could change the way we all look at the war on drugs.