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Legal pot in two states alters Latin drug wars

Nations’ leaders want OAS review of votes

- Associated Press - Monday, November 12, 2012

MEXICO CITY — The decisions by two U.S. states to legalize marijuana will have important implications for international efforts to quash drug smuggling, four Latin American leaders declared Monday.

Mexico, Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica called for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the votes in Colorado and Washington state and said the United Nations General Assembly should hold a special session on the prohibition of drugs by 2015 at the latest.

"It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent," Mexican President Felipe Calderon said after a meeting with President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Laura Chinchilla Costa Rica and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.

Marijuana legalization by U.S. state governments is "a paradigm change on the part of those entities in respect to the current international system," Mr. Calderon said.

The most influential adviser to Mexico's next president, who takes office Dec. 1, questioned last week how the country will enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug now legal under some state laws. Mexico has seen tens of thousands of people killed over the past six years as part of a government attempt to destroy the country's drug cartels.

President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto has promised to shift the government's focus to preventing violence against ordinary citizens, although he says he intends to keep battling cartels and is opposed to drug legalization. Guatemala's president has advocated the international legalization of drugs.

Mexico is one of the primary suppliers of marijuana to the U.S., while Honduras and Belize are important stops on the northward passage of cocaine from South America. Costa Rica is seeing increasing use of its territory by drug traffickers.

Luis Videgaray, head of Mr. Pena Nieto's transition team, told Radio Formula on Wednesday that the votes in the two states complicate his country's commitment to quashing the growing and smuggling of marijuana.

"Obviously we can't handle a product that is illegal in Mexico, trying to stop its transfer to the United States, when in the United States, at least in part of the United States, it now has a different status," Mr. Videgaray said.

Mr. Videgaray stopped short of threatening to curtail Mexican enforcement of marijuana laws, but his comments appeared likely to increase pressure on the Obama administration to strictly enforce U.S. federal law, which still forbids recreational pot use.

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