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Should the United States De-criminalize Drug Possession (like Mexico Just Did)?


Big news from south of the border: Last week, Mexico issued a law de-criminalizing possession of pot, coke, heroin, meth, and acid in small amounts for "personal use," the idea being that prosecution is less effective and more expensive than rehabilitation-and that punishing non-violent users wasn't working. Clearly, this the stuff of controversy. And a consensus is rarely in sight when drug legislation is on the table-though the seemingly strange bedfellows of Reason and StreetCarnage are both scoffing at how little acid is allowed.Mexican authorities describe the legislation not as legalization per se, but an attempt at "giving citizens greater legal certainty," noting that police corruption is an ongoing problem, especially regarding the drug laws. Keep in mind this is a country that has seen 10,000 drug-war-related killings since January 2007 (more on that Wednesday). So while it's tempting to pose questions such as "will this work," it's probably a good idea to temper one's expectations for "working."Then again, consider the case of Portugal, which, in 2001, became the first European nation to abrogate criminal punishment for possession. As Time reported earlier this year, that much ballyhooed legislation worked rather swimmingly to reduce teen drug use and HIV infection. That news came around the time that the Obama-appointed drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, announced a shift the tone of American drug-legislation, which included the removal of the phrase "war" from the department's public lexicon. However, that was months ago, and for the time being, it seems like Obama's keeping quiet on the topic of Mexico.Considering how many people we have locked up on drug possession charges-and considering that, with all its pecuniary foibles, California is basically letting everyone out of jail anyway-do you think decriminalizing drug possession would be an effective solution for the United States?Image via Gawker. Thanks, Michelle.
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via International Monetary Fund / Flickr and Streetsblog Denver / Flickr

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