Saturday, September 18, 2021
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A July 30, 2009 AP release ("US 'Wait-and-See' Attitude on New Mexican Drug Law") reports that Mexican "President Felipe Calderon has proposed requiring mandatory treatment for those caught with 'personal use' amounts of drugs." The Mexican Congress recently approved a similar bill that "recommends voluntary treatment programs," with mandatory treatment required only after a third offense. The congressional bill "would exempt from criminal prosecution those possessing five grams of marijuana, half a gram of cocaine or 50 milligrams of heroin."
Despite having himself backed the idea of treatment-over-incarceration proposals, US drug czar Gil Kerlikowske "says he will adopt a 'wait-and-see' attitude on [the] new Mexican policy that many see as effectively decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin." Kerlikowske admitted that "from our viewpoint, the use of the government as a strong sanction is often pretty helpful in getting people into treatment," but he said that "If the sanction becomes completely nonexistent I think that would be a concern," though he also admits that nothing exists within the proposal to suggest that it would lead to such a situation. However, the drug czar appeared genuinely puzzled about the law itself, stating that whether "the law's proposed sanctions 'are actually enough, I'm not sure." He told reporters that "I would actually give this a bit of a wait and see attitude," as their application and use have always seemed, to Kerlikowske, the key to legislative initiatives' success.
Other commentators were more sure of their opinions. Political scientist Javier Olivia "agreed the bill represented decriminalization and said it posed a serious contradiction for the Calderon administration." Raul Benitez, National University strategy studies professor, concurred with Olivia that "the bill does represent decriminalization, but said it is not out of step with some other major nations." Mexico's Roman Catholic Church was surest of all, publicly denouncing decriminalization "after Congress passed the bill."
Although he's offered up his own, more draconian proposal, Calderon may still sign the congressional bill into law, though "administration officials won't say whether he plans to." The president has little time to make up his mind; if he fails to act before the September deadline, "the bill could actually become law, and opposition parties in Congress have enough votes to override any objections Calderon might make to the new law." Benitez predicts that Calderon will likely enact the bill despite his dislike of it, if only for political reasons.