Representatives from Mexico, Colombia and Costa Rica met with U.S. officials last week to discuss the impact on Latin America of new marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.
Many countries in Latin America have criticized the state marijuana laws, according to Fox News Latino. Others have considered legalizing drugs in their own countries. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina favors legalization as a way to reduce crime and violence. Uruguay has considered a proposal to legalize marijuana.
Marijuana is still illegal under U.S. federal law. “The U.S. continues to oppose drug legalization because evidence shows our shared drug problem is a major public health and safety threat, and drug addiction is a disease that can be successfully prevented and treated,” Berit Hallberg, a spokesman for the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), told Fox News Latino.
Legalizing marijuana does not prevent violence or affect cartels operating in drug-producing countries, according to ONDCP. The agency states that independent research indicates legalization would not dramatically reduce Mexican drug trafficking revenue. Gross revenues to these cartels from illegal exports of marijuana to wholesalers in the United States are likely less than $2 billion, ONDCP notes. The article states total annual profits for Mexican and Colombian cartels are between $18 billion and $39 billion.
The U.S. federal government’s response to the state laws will send an important message to other countries, according to Beau Kilmer, Coordinator of the Rand Corporation’s Drug Policy Center. He told Fox News Latino, “We’re still waiting to see how the feds take action in Colorado and Washington. Their response will relay a hard message with other states and the rest of the world.”