Would Legalizing Marijuana Help Ease the Drug Wars in Mexico?

Three former heads of state in Latin America—Mexico's former president Ernesto Zedillo, former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former Colombian president César Gaviria—issued a joint statement in an opinion piece that recently appeared in the Wall Street Journal. In it they express their view that the drug war was too costly and difficult for countries like Mexico, and recommending that the United States start looking at alternatives, like legalizing marijuana. “The war on drugs has failed. And it's high time to replace an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies,” the statement begins.

A recent surge in news on the violence and mayhem caused by the Mexican drug Cartels tells a chilling story: It seems that the country—with the world’s 13th largest economy and one of the most stable in Latin America—is having a hard time fighting the deep-entrenched corruption that supports the bustling drug trade. The violence is brutal and escalating, claiming the lives of approximately 5,000 people just last year. Mexican officials report that drug trade in Mexico generates at least $10 billion in yearly revenues. The government's annual budget for federal law enforcement, not including the army? A paltry $1.2 billion.

Perhaps the current prohibitionist stance on the war on drugs hasn’t worked—and won’t ever work. The proposal to actually legalize marijuana may not be so crazy. They compare the adverse effects of the drug to those caused by legal alcohol or tobacco. Maybe putting the drug on the same level as alcohol or tobacco—acknowledging its effects on health and putting minor restrictions on its consumption—will ultimately lead to reduced demand and consumption, and in this way destabilize the rampant cartels in Mexico.

What do you think? Should marijuana be legalized? Do you think it would help the Mexican government win the war on drugs?