Taking a lead from the United States, Mexico should allow states to begin legalizing marijuana while broader efforts are in limbo, a senior government official said, as the country seeks ways to tackle record gang violence.
Tourism minister Enrique de la Madrid, confronting rising lawlessness in and around the resort cities of Cancun and Los Cabos, said it made no sense for Mexico to maintain prohibition given permissive U.S. policies in states such as California.
“I think in Mexico we should move towards regulating it at state level,” he said in an interview late on Wednesday, calling it “illogical” to divert funds from fighting kidnapping, rape and murder to arrest people using marijuana.
President Enrique Pena Nieto has said Mexico and the United States should not pursue diverging policies on marijuana. In 2016, Pena Nieto backed a bill to allow Mexicans to carry an ounce of the drug, but the measure stalled in Congress.
Turf wars between gangs for control of supply and distribution of drugs including heroin, cocaine, crystal meth and marijuana helped push murders in Mexico to a record of almost 29,000 in 2017, according to government data.
Drug policy is one of the major issues in Mexico’s July 1 presidential election. The front-runner, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has even floated the idea of exploring an amnesty for criminal gangs to curb the violence.
Rising crime last year shook Baja California Sur and Quintana Roo, the states that are home to Los Cabos and Cancun. In January, the government agreed plans with local authorities in both states to beef up security.
De la Madrid said at the time that marijuana should be legalized in the two resorts.
In the first two months of this year, murders climbed again nationwide compared to the same period in 2017. They fell in Baja California Sur, but rose in Quintana Roo.