By Assemblymember Garcia
Yesterday, President Obama met with Mexican President Pena-Nieto to discuss how our two countries can work together to advance our common goals; security, economics and social/human rights issues. I’d argue that Pena-Nieto should be in Mexico, trying to initiate the reforms his people have been demanding in response to human rights abuses and that the President of the United States shouldn’t give him an audience until he does.
But since the meeting took place, President Obama should have taken the opportunity to press Pena-Nieto on human rights abuses in Mexico, the most recent being the massacre of 43 teacher trainees in Iguala. Pena-Nieto has promised to investigate these abuses, but has taken no action as of yet. He is in denial and ironically, the extent of any crackdown has been to stifle the voices of protesters, claiming them to be part of a movement to destabilize the government. Even now citizens of Mexico protest in outrage. Our country and our president are in a unique position to hold Pena-Nieto accountable. And there is no better time than now.
There is no reason why the U.S. has to wait for Pena-Nieto to get his act together. The Iguala massacre illustrates the problem. The government, the law enforcement and the drug cartels are connected – creating an environment riddled with crime and violence that is driving thousands of refugees to take the dangerous journey to the U.S. Ultimately, the war on drugs supplies cartels with the money and the guns that empower them. It’s a vicious cycle, an unintended consequence of our nation’s war on drugs- we created the opportunity for cartels to profit from trafficking illegal drugs. We sustain the market that makes drug cartels so profitable and so powerful. We help fund some of Mexico’s most serious problems regarding security, economics and human rights.
It’s time to reconsider our own nation’s policy on drugs. It is estimated that if currently illegal drugs were legalized and taxed at the same rates as alcohol or tobacco, the U.S. would gain in$ 46.7 billion. For instance, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in U.S. Four states have legalized and taxed marijuana: Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Aside from creating a new, legal market for product grown here in the U.S., and new taxable revenue- it diverts money that could have been going to drug cartels and keeps it in our local economies. The biggest impact would be to legalize marijuana at the federal level – eliminate the demand for illegal drugs often trafficked across our borders, which happens to be the bread and butter of the drug cartels that terrorize the people of Mexico and other countries in Latin America. It’s clear that the war on drugs is not working in the U.S., and it’s fueling the demise of the Mexican people. Essentially, it’s the issue that stands in the way of Mexico and the United States being able to achieve our “common goals”.
So while we must call on the President of Mexico to do more to fight corruption and human rights abuses, we must take a serious look how we can curb the power the cartels have. At the very least, California should be the next state to fully legalize marijuana. By doing so, we’d not only be able to regulate it and tax it but we’d depriving profits that give drug cartel their power. By eliminating the black market, we eliminate their ability to profit. By helping to make them weaker, Mexico may actually be able to initiate the reforms its citizens demand and deserve.