In front of Mexico’s Senate building, a group of cannabis activists has erected a semi-permanent protest camp meant to call attention to the Supreme Court’s impending April 30th deadline for legislators to regulate recreational marijuana. Inside the building, the chamber opened discussion on the regulatory plan today. 

But Wednesday morning, the country’s president dealt a seemingly lethal blow to hopes for a green future. 

At his daily early morning press conference on Wednesday, President Andres Manuel López Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, said his administration is no longer interested in guaranteeing the constitutional right to cultivate and consume marijuana recognized by the country’s top court. The president is largely regarded as having absolute control over the policies of his Morena Party, which he founded in 2014.

“We’ll have to see about that, but we’re not thinking about taking that route,” AMLO told a reporter who had asked about the progress of cannabis legalization. “Only for medical uses, only for health purposes.”

“There’s a possibility of guaranteeing the use of non-harmful drugs with medicinal uses,” he continued. “That is completely different.” 

His statements are in direct conflict with the country’s Secretary of Health Jorge Alcocer Varela, who just last month called Mexico’s prohibitionist strategy “unsustainable.” AMLO’s Morena Party controls the Senate, and members have proposed several legislative initiatives to legalize adult use cannabis, making the president’s assertions all the more unexpected — though he is widely concerned to be against cannabis legalization on a personal level.

Throughout the first year of his term, AMLO has appeared to be more interested in demonizing drugs than legalizing them. Indeed, in Wednesday’s press conference he insinuated that drug consumption could cause Mexicans to be murdered. 

“60% of those who lose their lives daily, 60% of people murdered in shootings show signs that they were under the effects of drugs or alcohol, but fundamentally drugs,” AMLO affirmed, failing to cite the source of the dubious statistic. 

The Issue of Violent Crime

Violent crime in Mexico is not a matter for supposition. Since AMLO’s administration has taken office, murder rates have soared to record highs. In 2019, an average of 95 people were murdered every day. 

The president has faced intense criticism for his strategy in handling the violence, and in particular the country’s femicide crisis. A spate of gory deaths of women of all ages recently led AMLO to state he would fight against gender-based violence with a plan for “moral regeneration”. The seeming callousness of his remarks is among the factors prompting a women’s strike that is being planned in the country for Monday, March 9th. 

Wednesday’s press conference also featured the debut of a video from the president’s latest “say no to drugs” campaign. The clip focused on the danger of synthetic drugs, and the insalubrious ingredients that are used to make them — two themes of an educational expo that the president promised would soon be taking place in Mexico City’s Zócalo, the capital’s main plaza. 

AMLO also took the opportunity to acknowledge the failure of last year’s “Juntos Por La Paz” [“Together For Peace”] anti-drug campaign, saying that it was too “subliminal” to be effective. “That’s why the decision has been made to go with a more direct campaign,” he said.

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