Mexico has been fighting the war on drugs for years, and so far, it’s largely lost. It’s believed that organized crime has resulted in as many as 150,000 homicides and that cartels make somewhere between $20 and $30 billion per year. Despite intense crackdowns by the military and police, cartels remain immensely profitable and powerful.
Now, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador may be signaling a major shift in the country’s war against drugs and cartels. Obrador is considering mass decriminalization of drug use and shifting funding from combating drug cartels to providing long-term treatment programs. Obrador had claimed that his nation’s “prohibitionist strategy” isn’t working and is unsustainable.
Obrador doesn’t necessarily want to go it alone, however. He has called for bilateral talks with the United States and multi-lateral talks through the United Nations. Across the United States, many state and local governments are legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana use. However, few politicians have talked about broad decriminalization of drug use.
Portugal and a few other countries have decriminalized drug use. Despite worries that decriminalization would lead to more rampant abuse, in most instances drug abuse has decreased over the long haul following decriminalization. Of course, just because decriminalization had positive effects in other countries doesn’t mean it’ll work in the United States.
A global coalition of governments has formed the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) to study the effects of drug abuse on a global scale. The IDPC has found that in spite of the massive war on drugs, drug-related deaths have increased 145 percent over the previous decade alone. The IDPC also found that roughly 1 in 5 prisoners globally is incarcerated due to drug-related crimes.