Secretary of Tourism, Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, has come up with a startling suggestion: legalizing marijuana in Tourist communities. His rationale is that it will reduce the violence associated with the marijuana export business, and reassure tourists that Mexico is “safe”. Predictably, the Secretary of Defense is opposed to the idea, and (less predictably) the Human Rights Commission is non-committal.
I happened to catch the the Azteca network news last night, and this was the lead story. Several Deputies and Senators made “well, maybe we could study the issue” comments, and perhaps they will. But I doubt the de la Madrid’s proposal is going to amount to much, or become any sort of campaign issue of significance.
Ricardo Anaya, the “left-right” PAN dominated coalition candidate for president just says “no”. I haven’t heard from PRI’s José Antonio Meade, who never says anything controversial one way or the other, and don’t expect to hear anything from him. AMLO so far hasn’t commented either… but then, being himself being suspected of having rather conventional, abstenious personal habits and ideas, is likely to suggest a citizen’s referendum, like he does with other controversial social issues.
I doubt this will come to pass, for several reasons. First off, de la Madrid is talking about state laws, specifically in Quintana Roo (Cancún’s state) and Baja California. While tourism is essential to those state’s economy, tourism is not, by any means, the mainstay of eitther state’s workforce. And, the money in tourism comes from long-term stays, not kids on the beach smoking
Baja California is also one of the more socially conservative states in the Republic, and in Quintana Roo there has been a backlash against over-emphasis on tourism and “development”. Presumaly, under de la Madrid’s proposal, the marijuana available would be locally grown… and I’m not sure the exporters who now make their living from the illegal trade would all that thrilled by yuppie competitors. And the present … er… entrepreneurs don’t play nice.
Secondly, with Mexico turning nationalist of late, “special rights” for tourists (read gringos) is something few political leaders would be willing to openly advocate. As with the fights in Baja over water rights (and privatization of water), would a new (and probably foreign owned, or built with foreign capital, like tourist resorts are) water-intensive industry be popular with the powerful agricultural workers political organizations. A different kind of violence, but one likely to be more visible to tourists if farmers start blocking resort hotels or the airports in protest.
Finally, one forgets sometimes with most English-language reportage from Mexico coming from those of us living in tourist regions (and our acquaintances being other foreigners or those working with foreigners and used to our ways) or “liberals” in the US sense of the word, that the Mexican middle class generally sees marijuana as either tacky or decadent (or both). That marijuana for personal use is technically decriminalized only really applies if you’re “gente decente” (from a good family) and the police. Even then, the user is likely to catch hell from his or her family. As it is, those who support full legalization are quick to deny that they want to smoke dope, or have much interest in the product.*
It could happen (and probably will), but it’s not coming to a beach-front cabana near you any time soon.
* Myself included. My concerns are more about the economic impact of what would likely be an industry controlled by outside interests, and the effects on water usage, food security and local agriculture of another luxury export commodity.
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