Mexican President Felipe Calderon with US President Barack Obama

Mexican President Felipe Calderon with US President Barack Obama (Alfredo Guerrero/Federal Gov't of Mexico)

As Mexico’s government announced the death toll in the four-year-long war with drug cartels totaled more than 28,000, President Felipe Calderon called for a debate on legalizing drugs to fight the cartels.

“It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions),” he said. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”

Three former presidents — Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil — urged Latin American countries last year to consider legalizing marijuana to undermine a major source of income for cartels. And Mexico’s congress also has debated the issue.

But Calderon has so far said he is opposed to the idea.

Despite Calderon’s feelings on legalization, his call for debate is an encouraging step forward. But it’s not the first call for legalization from Mexico’s government. In December 2009, a Mexican official said that “there is no other argument or solution other than legalization, at least of marijuana.”

Growing numbers of Mexican and U.S. officials say—at least privately—that the biggest step in hurting the business operations of Mexican cartels would be simply to legalize their main product: marijuana. Long the world’s most popular illegal drug, marijuana accounts for more than half the revenues of Mexican cartels.

“Economically, there is no argument or solution other than legalization, at least of marijuana,” said the top Mexican official matter-of-factly. The official said such a move would likely shift marijuana production entirely to places like California, where the drug can be grown more efficiently and closer to consumers. “Mexico’s objective should be to make the U.S. self-sufficient in marijuana,” he added with a grin.

In response to Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s call for a debate on legalization, Norm Stamper, a 34-year veteran police officer who was Seattle’s chief of police and is now a speaker with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and an adviser to our Just Say Now campaign, called on President Obama to join the debate on legalizing marijuana.
Just Say Now logo

“President Calderon’s call for a debate on legalization is a big step forward in putting an end to the war raging in Mexico and along our borders. More than 28,000 people have been killed by Mexico’s drug cartels since 2006 – including 1200 in July, the deadliest month yet in this drug war.

“Legalizing marijuana is the most sensible approach to stopping this border war. Cartels thrive on marijuana prohibition. Around 70% of the cartels’ profits come from the illegal sale of marijuana, which they turn around to buy guns that have killed thousands of Mexicans and that terrorize police on America’s streets.

“Just Say Now welcomes President Calderon to this debate. We hope that President Obama will join this debate to end the war on marijuana.”

Stand with Norm Stamper and Just Say Now to end the war on marijuana. Please add your name to our petition to President Obama to end the wasteful war on marijuana.