Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was once opposed to the possibility of legalized cannabis. Along the way, however, he had a change of heart.
In April 2016 he expressed interest in starting the decriminalization process. While he might have personally had reservations, he recognized that his government was losing the war on drugs. He also knew Mexican citizens were growing tired of the legal hassle. As he stated then,
Our country has suffered, as few have, the ill effects of organised crime tied to drug trafficking. Fortunately, a new consensus is gradually emerging worldwide in favour of reforming drug policies. A growing number of countries are strenuously combating criminals, but instead of criminalising consumers, they offer them alternatives and opportunities.
Yesterday that process took a giant leap forward as Peña Nieto legalized medical marijuana as his nation's Lower House of Congress predominantly shook their heads in agreement—the final vote was 374-7. A previous bill that would have allowed Mexicans to recreationally hold up to an ounce of marijuana never found its way out of Congress.
But the atmosphere is quickly changing as drug cartels continue to wage war on the population. In 2016 nearly 21,000 homicides were committed in the nation, many drug-related. Early statistics for 2017 hint that this year might be the worse year in a decade.
Legalization is one of the most promising paths forward. As I wrote about last week, legalization in American border states have reduced violent crimes. By wiping out the black market it is hoped that crimes and murders would drop in any region applying this basic logic.
Which is what Peña Nieto is betting on with this move. As in American states going through the legalization process there is much bureaucracy ahead for the Mexican government and its citizens. What matters now is that they're moving forward with an important rights issue that both promises medical care for those in need as well as taking one step closer to full legalization.
With Canada making its own national progress on this front, there's only one nation in North America left to understand the importance and value of widespread legalization. To date the US takes a quasi-states rights stance, but even medical marijuana is not nationally legislated. One can dream.
Derek's next book, Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health, will be published on 7/17 by Carrel/Skyhorse Publishing. He is based in Los Angeles. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.