Towards an International Drug Peace: A Perspective from Mexico

Jorge Hernández Tinajero
Smell the Truth (US)
Friday, 13 September, 2013

marihuana-hojasJorge Hernández Tinajero, president of Mexico City’s Collective for a Holistic Policy Towards Drugs (CUPIHD), shares an international perspective on the historic Senate hearings this week on marijuana law reform in this guest post.

When it comes to marijuana reform, there’s a very good chance that all news in the near future will be local.

The US Department of Justice’s recent “trust but verify” approach with Washington and Colorado’s marijuana regulations could signal a new era in which local governments have the space to try imaginative ways to end the failed war on drugs.

In the last few months, exciting proposals have been announced in Copenhagen, where local officials hope to wrest control of the marijuana market by regulating its availability. Similarly, several Dutch mayors have expressed concern about illicit supply to the country’s famed ‘coffee shops’ where cannabis can be purchased and consumed. In response they have produced plans for municipal cannabis farms to supply these businesses and take crime out of the industry.

In my native Mexico City, some federal and local representatives, as well as our mayor, had started to formally analyze options to regulate cannabis, in order to treat drugs from “a different approach”, shrink the black market and potentially reduce violence.

In each of these cities, one fairly large question was how to reconcile local initiatives with federal law?

Washington DC may have just provided the answer.

The federal Department of Justice told two US states that that the national government would allow regulated cannabis markets to go forward as long as they complied with eight enforcement priorities. These include preventing sales to minors; ensuring that criminals do not profit from the trade; limiting the market to licit channels; prevention of driving under the influence and reducing drug-related violence, among others.

US Attorney General Eric Holder described this dynamic between federal and local authorities as the “trust but verify” approach.

This “trust but verify” approach could offer a new model to help local leaders balance creative municipal or provincial initiatives with national drug control priorities.

Some of the drug war’s greatest failures – including mass incarceration; drug-related violence and health crises – resulted from heavy-handed top-down directives that ignored what was happening on the ground.

Perhaps it’s time to give local leaders a chance to do better.

All they need is a little trust.