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Gang-ravaged Mexico stuck in weed ban as U.S. opens up

By Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican advocates for drug reform are voicing alarm concerning the nation’s widening hole with the United States on marijuana laws, as felony violence surges once more south of the border.

Tens of hundreds have been killed through the years in Mexico, on the entrance line of a U.S.-led struggle on medicine. The nation’s prohibitionist strategy to marijuana is more and more at odds with the United States, the place liberalization is advancing.

California in November turned the primary state on the U.S.-Mexico border to vote for complete hashish legalization, additional pressuring Mexican legislators to vary coverage.

Earlier this month Mexico’s Senate duly handed a restricted medical marijuana invoice. But it has but to be accepted by the decrease home and critics say it’s nonetheless far too little.

“It’s a teeny, tiny reform for an enormous problem in the country,” opposition leftist senator Mario Delgado stated in the course of the dialogue of the medical marijuana invoice.

“It’s absurd that on this side of the border we continue with the violence, the deaths; and on the other side … this same drug is considered legal for recreational use.”

Driven by widespread gang violence, murders are on monitor to breach the 20,000 mark in 2016 for the primary time in 4 years, including to greater than 100,000 gang-related deaths in the last decade because the authorities started a military-led crackdown on drug cartels.

Many hundreds extra have disappeared.

Pena Nieto stated in 2014 that Mexico couldn’t pursue diverging paths with the United States on marijuana. Earlier this yr, he submitted a invoice to shut the hole on U.S. laws. But his personal lawmakers have been reluctant to comply with his lead.

Starting with Washington and Colorado in 2012, U.S. states have begun to legalize leisure use of marijuana, and lots of extra now allow medicinal use, as does Canada.

California, which has an financial system roughly twice the dimensions of Mexico’s, was extensively seen as a bellwether for a shift in coverage.

Mexico’s Supreme Court final yr set the ball rolling in a landmark case, granting 4 individuals the suitable to develop and eat weed, and galvanizing hope for change.

In April, Pena Nieto proposed decriminalizing possession of up to 28 grams of marijuana for private use, and stated it might permit individuals jailed for holding up to that quantity to go free.

But senators in his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) put the initiative on ice, saying it “requires a greater analysis,” and solely backed medical marijuana use.

The PRI blamed heavy losses in state elections in June on Pena Nieto pushing a liberal agenda, notably his bid to legalize homosexual marriage, stated Lisa Sanchez, drug coverage director on the group Mexico Unido Contra la Delincuencia.

“They immediately transferred that discussion into the drugs issue by saying, ‘If we go too liberal, we might lose more elections,'” Sanchez stated.

Opinion polls present that whereas there’s public help for medical marijuana use, Mexicans are nonetheless immune to the thought of an outright liberalization of the drug for leisure ends.

While Congress procrastinates, some individuals are even benefiting from the U.S. opening, stated Jaime Andres Vinasco, a doctoral scholar at college Colef in Tijuana, a border metropolis synonymous with Mexican drug traffickers promoting to U.S. consumers.

In Tijuana, moneyed shoppers take pleasure in medical marijuana introduced over from California dispensaries that’s stronger and of upper high quality than native weed, stated Vinasco, who has spoken to customers and sellers for his analysis on the reverse stream.

“The cannabis from California, for the Tijuanenses, or residents of Tijuana, has become, for the great majority, a luxury item,” he stated. “Quite a paradoxical phenomenon.”

(Reporting by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein; Editing by Dave Graham and David Gregorio)

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