“Consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs,” says Former Mexican President Fox; Mexican President Calderon Supports Debate on Legalizing Drugs

Press Release August 9, 2010
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Ethan Nadelmann at (646) 335-2240

The question of whether legalizing drugs would help reduce the killings in Mexico has made front page news this week and is causing unprecedented debate around the world. Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox proposed legalizing drugs and current President Calderon has said he is open to the debate.

The increased talk of legalization is a result of the drug prohibition bloodshed that is rocketing Mexico and because California will be voting on an initiative to legalize marijuana in November. More than 28,000 Mexicans have been killed in the three plus years since Calderon made the drug war his signature issue. Despite the gruesome deaths taking place on a daily basis, there has been no impact on drug availability in Mexico or the United States, and the drug cartels are as powerful as ever.

“We should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs,” wrote President Fox on his blog on Sunday. “Radical prohibition strategies have never worked.”

“Legalizing in this sense does not mean drugs are good and don’t harm those who consume them,” he wrote. “Rather we should look at it as a strategy to strike at and break the economic structure that allows gangs to generate huge profits in their trade, which feeds corruption and increases their areas of power.”

Former President Fox’s support for legalization came just days after President Calderon, for the first time, said he is open to the debate of drug legalization. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and key arguments on both sides,” said Calderon at an event with business leaders, security experts and civil groups. The remarks were part of a larger talk where Calderon expressed concern about the stability of Mexico. “The behavior of the criminals has changed and become a defiance to the state, an attempt to replace the state.”

“What’s going on in Mexico today is like Chicago during the days of Prohibition and Al Capone — times fifty!” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Fox and Calderon are merely asserting the obvious — that all drug policy alternatives, including various types and degrees of legalization, need to be on the table.”

The openness and frankness of Fox and Calderon are in stark contrast to the Obama Administration, which is currently opposed to even debating marijuana legalization. Obama’s drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has repeatedly said not only are he and Obama opposed to legalization, but that the word legalization is not even in their vocabulary.

“It’s time for the U.S. drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, to stop saying that ‘marijuana legalization is not in his vocabulary’,” said Ethan Nadelmann. “At this point he has a moral obligation — to both U.S. and Mexican citizens — to make it part of his vocabulary.”

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.